Martin Scorsese’s latest is a gorgeously stylized psychological thriller full of darkly lush horror that torments its obsessed protagonist. As former World War II veteran and U.S. Marshal Edward "Teddy" Daniels, Leonardo DiCaprio hits every psychological mark that Scorsese dynamically orchestrates against a vast metaphorical natural and unnatural setting.
Peddocks Island in Nahant, Mass., stands in for “Shutter Island,” a Boston Harbor land mass circa 1954 that contains a private prison hospital for the criminally insane where a female inmate named Rachel Solondo has recently escaped from her unbroken cell. Teddy and his new partner U.S. Marshall Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) arrive on the fog-shrouded isle to investigate the patient's disappearance but don't receive much cooperation from the hospital's governing psychiatric doctors (played by Sir Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow).
The manically obsessed Teddy suffers from terrible migraines and has walking nightmares that recall his wife’s tragic death and terrible atrocities he witnessed while helping to liberate Jews from the Nazi Dachau concentration camp as a U.S. soldier.
The obvious bond that's developed between Scorsese and DiCaprio over the course four films together presents audiences with a rare phenomenon of fulfilled potential. With the ever-dependable DiCaprio as his modern-day Robert DeNiro, Scorsese is at liberty as a storyteller to dig far deeper into narrative depths than most filmmakers could ever imagine.
Shutter Island is a complex mystery that exponentially folds back on itself during the third act. It isn't a narrative that a novice filmmaker, no matter how talented, could execute well because of the demanding nature of the material's precarious “state of mind.” Crucial to the palpable tapestry of sociological themes that Scorsese juggles is the way the director moves the camera and shifts perspectives to give the audience a sense of physical context with which to judge dangerous themes at play.
America's most accomplished and inspired director has made yet another truly engrossing picture. Grade: A-