“Shutter Island” – the criminally insane always make for a good, scary story

Shutter-Island 2
Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo star as two 1950s U.S. Marshals sent to Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a dangerous mental patient.

Rated R

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Max Von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Jackie Earl Haley, Patricia Clarkson

Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 4/5

Word of Warning: Frightening, but it’s not one of those trendy, cheap-scares kind of films where ghosts crawl on the ceiling and come out of television sets.

There is a lot on the line when someone like Scorsese is sitting in the director chair, and I was anxious to see if “Shutter Island” would live up to the standards of its renowned director.

“Shutter Island” is based on a book by the same named authored by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone.” It is the third film Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio have worked on together.

The year is 1954, and U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Ruffalo) have been summoned to Shutter Island. The island is home to a hospital/prison for the criminally insane, and a dangerous patient has vanished.

The film’s opening sequence – sweeping cinematography of a dark island shrouded in a damp, low lying fog of gloom, accompanied by frantic piano music – sets a terrifying tenor.

When the two marshals arrive on the island, the mood of the place is unsettled. They meet with the hospital’s chief psychiatrist, Dr. Cawley (Kingsley), who despite his friendly nature, seems to be hiding a more sinister side, or perhaps we just think that because Kingsley is so good at sinister.

The marshals find that patient Rachel Solando has mysteriously escaped from her room, leaving only a cryptic note hidden behind her bureau. As the two start their investigation Daniels is plagued with flashbacks of his time in the war and emotional flashbacks involving his late-wife. As the marshals dig deeper, it becomes apparent that all is not as it seems on Shutter Island.

The criminally insane always make for good, scary stories and “Shutter Island” is both beautiful and alarming. Crafted to transport the audience into the tale, by pulling them in with music and emotional, the story wraps the audience into a cocoon of paranoia. In this way, the viewers are connected to Daniels, who is also becoming more and more apprehensive as his investigation deepens.

In “Shutter Island” Scorsese has pulled off a sort of Hitchcockian thriller, tightly holding the viewer’s hand as he leads them down an unpredictable and eerie path. I like this movie. It keeps the viewer guessing without insulting his or her intelligence.

I think Scorsese is tops when it comes to the craft of movie making. He’s made several of my favorites, including “The Age of Innocence” (1993). Scorsese is a storyteller who paints a dazzling and vivid picture, but also draws in the rough edges. I definitely recommend “Shutter Island.”

For a different take on “Shutter Island’ visit WhatWouldTotoWatch.com.

Also appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor.


  1. Leonardo DiCaprio is my man. Seriously, I’ve loved the guy since he was on “Growing Pains.” 🙂 I also think it’s funny when he does “accents’ of any kind. I think I’ll wait until SHUTTER ISLAND is on DVD. I don’t think I could handle the scary, criminally insane on the big screen.


  2. P.S. This is a great review (in fact, BSW might LOVE it!) My only problem is that you didn’t post more pics of Leonardo DiCaprio.


  3. “I don’t think I could handle the scary, ciminally insane on the big screen.” LOL! I laughed outloud.

    My brother looks a lot like Leonardo… in fact, the resemblance between the two is eerie because my mom was adopted so perhaps my bro and I are actually related to Leo.

    PS My brother is single. 🙂 He lives in Southern Oregon. His name is Wesley. I don’t think he ever visits HeidiTown.


  4. Thanks for posting this, Heidi. I’ve been wondering whether this movie would be “too scary” for me, but from your description, as well as my appreciation for the talents of Mr. DiCaprio, it sounds like something I would enjoy.


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