CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

Lent Day 6 "Shutter Island" asks, "Would you rather die a good man, than live as a monster?"

If Stephen King is the H.P. Lovecraft of New England, then author Dennis LeHane is the Nathanial Hawthorne of the same geographic region. Taking advantage of landscapes and the cold climate, Lehane's protagonists collectively suffer from some internal secret. While Hawthorne's literature focused on themes of social guilt that grew from the Salem Witch Trials, LeHane's characters confront their emotional development from their own individual choices.

Riding on the heels of the Oscar winning **Mystic River,** Lehane released **Shutter island** in 2003. Unlike the rambling narratives which featured the actions of three main characters, **Shutter Island** stayed focused on one Federal Marshal's search for a missing prisoner, who happened to be a notorious serial killer. Unlike Clint Eastwood's unfussy direction in **Mystic River,** **Shutter Island** is given full blown Martin Scorsese visual impressionism.

During hurricane season circa 1954, Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo Di Caprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) take a ferry to Shutter island, the home for a social experiment involving criminally insane prisoners. During the investigation, Daniels detects sinister motives of the people he is interviewing.

Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) is psychiatric administrator who oversees the social research being conducted on Shutter Island. The Warden (Ted Levine) and Deputy Warden McPhearson (John Carroll Lynch) act suspicious and constantly give Daniels the evil eye. Yet, Daniels chief suspect is the German Doctor (Max Von Sydow), an immigrant who may have been a Nazi during World War II. Being a World War II Veteran, Daniels has a hard time separating his animosity with the German psychiatrist.

When **Shutter island** concluded, I heard at least three people say, "I don't get it." Sadly, the first scene of the movie gave away the mystery to me, therefore I spent the next two and a half hours observing Martin Scorsese's directorial techniques. With **Shutter Island,** Scorsese channels Sir Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. The arrival upon Shutter Island echoes Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall's arrival in Kubrick's ***The Shining** and Leonardo DiCaprio's cliff hanging moments recall Cary Grant from Hitchcock's **North by Northwest.**

Unfortunately these homages do not provide enough juice to move the narrative into a satisfying conclusion. The denouement of the mystery drags with visuals that are not stimulating. It is sad, because with better pacing and given the performances of the ensemble cast, **Shutter Island** had the potential to be a classic.

Yet, there is final line of **Shutter Island** has caused major debates on the Internet. While the answer is academic, the line best summarizes the dark career themes of both Scorsese and Lehane's work;
"Would you rather die a good man, than live as a monster?"
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