I’m not going to beat around any bushes – Shutter Island is fantastic, Scorsese at the top of his game in a tense thriller that shows any young turk working in Hollywood how the game is played. And here’s why: The film’s lead characters, U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, aren’t idiots. There’s none of the obnoxiousness present in most thrillers where a character does something dumb just because the plot demands it. These guys are good cops, and when they travel to a secluded island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate a mysterious disappearance at a mental hospital, they dive in and actually think it out. It’s an incredibly refreshing and stupidly simple approach that makes the movie compulsively watchable from beginning to end. But what about that big twist?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil anything for you here. Yes, Shutter Island has a huge twist at the end that will leave you turning the movie over in your head like a Rubik’s cube. But, again, it’s a testament to Scorsese’s mastery of the form that it doesn’t feel forced or implausible. The clockwork construction of this film is so precise and smooth that it can get away with just about anything. Adding in one of the best performances of Leonardo DiCaprio‘s life doesn’t hurt either. And, of course, there’s the island itself. Shot on Boston Harbor’s Peddocks Island, the environment is as much a character as any of the actors, and cinematographer Robert Richardson milks it for every ounce of menace. Shutter Island is in many ways a genre film, a shocker, a product of Hollywood, but it takes the restrictions of those films and crafts them into something truly worth seeing.