Tuesday, January 31, 2012

3 short paragraphs: Shutter Island

2010, Martin Scorsese -- Netflix

I'm not well versed in Martin Scorsese's oeuvre... for no particular reason other the subject matter of much of his work is generally not of interest (organized crime) and the featured players he likes to work with (Dicaprio, Pachino) are not actors I particularly enjoy. 

But what I recognize from the opening half hour of Shutter Island is how strong and assured Scorsese's direction is, working with some pretty, shall we say, corny material, but making it work.  The setup is a loaded, hoary cliche of 50's post-pulp psychodramas, a "closed room mystery on and island" (see also Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), yet Scorsese's lens captures an intimidating location, with a genuine air of mystery and deception.  An initial flashback seems perhaps too loaded, too on-point, but Scorsese commits the use of flashbacks-turned-fever dreams-turned-nightmares as they quickly become part of the film's suspenseful landscape. 

The story itself isn't great, but the mystery at least has a streak of logic (far-fetched as it is) from which the director and editor never deviate.  There are no cheats here protecting the mystery, which is refreshing, actually working in the film's favor once it starts revealing its disappointing endgame.  The honesty of the film and its characters means that there isn't a big twist, just a slow unveiling, which makes it more satisfying than it should be.  Again, I chalk it up to Scorsese's skill and restraint, there's a wisdom to the storytelling if not the story itself.  Don't get me wrong, Shutter Island is not a good movie, but it is an incredibly well-made movie and I'm quite impressed with it, even though I didn't really like it.