Posts Tagged ‘mark ruffalo’

Bi Polar Reviews: Shutter Island

March 18, 2010

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There’s certainly a purpose to all this madness—though to discuss how the film achieves this would be giving the game away. Rest assured dear reader, there are no spoilers in this review.

This week’s Bi-Polar Review: Shutter Island

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Martin Scorsese is from the New Hollywood school of thought. A title given to aspiring directors in the sixties and seventies; the generation of “movie brats” who had grown up with the cinema, studied the visual image and begun breaking down the studio contrivances in a (then) predominantly conservative industry. A self confessed film nerd, able to pluck inspiration from films ranging from Italian neo-realism to (in Shutter Islands case) concrete Hitchcock thrillers. Scorsese’s films have always played homage to films of past, but have also been coupled with his trademark stamp of death and onanism.

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Scorsese’s latest effort Shutter Island is no different, offering a structured gothic noir exhumed from a more than capable novelist. Mr. Lehane’s work is merely a framework with which Scorsese could etch, sculpt and mould from a lifetime as a movie admirer and decades as an esteemed director and auteur.

No surprises who takes the lead this time round. Leonardo DiCaprio, collaborates with Scorsese for the third successive time. Bringing with him that understated Bostonian drawl in the shape of U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels, summoned to the Island after a patient mysteriously disappears in Jonathon Creek fashion. As DiCaprio and his partner (a suitably restrained Mark Ruffalo) make inquiries of the patients and staff, they’re flummoxed by the seemingly implausible escape of a woman evaporating from a secure cell with around the clock surveillance, and second by how a patient could leave an island that makes Alcatraz look like the Isle of Wight. All theories point to Sir Ben of Kingsley, both Jekyll and Hyde of the hospital, a shrink who treats the prisoners as patients rather than criminals, but seems to be hiding something from poor Teddy. For his part, DiCaprio brings his own share of personal baggage: Still plagued by harrowing visions of Dachau, and his wife’s death in an apartment fire.

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What starts off as crime procedural slowly transforms into psychological thriller, as more torrid conclusions arrive, the pressure and claustrophobic atmosphere gradually start to eat away at Daniels’ nerves. Scorsese relishes in his protagonists nightmarish dream sequences and flashbacks that engulf his situation while heavily clouding his judgment. Shutter Island may initially seem like a nervy genre piece à la Cape Fear, but I would contend it lends itself more to a Hitchcockian tale, a carnival show where it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between the troubled and troublesome. Imagine walking into your neighbour’s house after there has been a less than cosy confrontation. You are unsure as to why the atmosphere in the room is so bloody tense, but if you had any sense – you wouldn’t bother asking.

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Teddy’s problems are never too much for Scorsese and DiCaprio to handle, who in their third collaboration in a row have developed a definite rhythm that is evident in every scene. It is almost effortless how Teddy’s anxieties begin to creep into our own, the director makes the most of this, by choosing claustrophobic close ups, moving the camera in a little too close for comfort so we can see and more poignantly feel the characters every last nuance. All in all, it won’t be a beloved film to most, inspiring more dissertations and smug berets than popcorn fanatics and box office receipts. While this may not bring many happy faces around conference tables in Hollywood, they should take comfort in the fact that Shutter Island has not only a clear sense of self and purpose, but demonstrates a director (and production team for that matter) on the top of their game. Put simply, this is Scorsese at its best and noir at its darkest.

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Part Two

If Shutter Island were a blog it would be a page dedicated to 9/11 ‘truthers’, awash with theories on Bush speeches and Dan Brown numerology, tales of secret establishments and handshakes. The kind of site that hosts stock gifs and secondary colour schemes – all-caps and Bill Hicks prophecies. Don’t trust The Man yeah?

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As soon as US marshal Teddy Daniels steps onto the docks of Shutter Island. We’re thrown into a world of storms, loonies, liquids, Sir Ben Kingsley and surprisingly lucid dreams. Oh yeah, there’s a musical score that would make the Queen Mary blush. Conspiracies arise in droves as a Nazi, a murderer, and some diabolical experiments are thrown into the mix – add a touch of British weather for good measure and you have yourselves one confused looking Teddy.

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Teddy’s running out of time, and for a while we don’t know exactly why. Once we do, Scorsese sets about wrapping things up a bit too fast, like a lecturer who spends two hours talking about student indulgence and apathy before realising he has ten minutes left to actually get to the point. This tendency to overindulge in Teddy’s mind state leaves us lingering in the mind of a clearly confused protagonist cocooned in his own anxieties and as such – confused and cocooned ourselves.

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At this point you are not quite sure whether it is you or Scorsese who are beginning to lose their marbles. Has DiCaprio stepped into a nightmarish noir thriller or a Scooby Doo episode? He’s not sure, we’re not sure, but Scorsese, the ever present conductor, quickly prepares for the next act – audience, I present to you – some rats!

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Running in at just under two and a half hours, there is a lot of food for thought for what is essentially a revitalised gothic B-movie. The narrative and pacing is completely at odds with the director’s presentation; disproportionate handling of both the technique and homage’s to the works of Hitchcock and Kubrick. When the secrets of Shutter Island are finally presented to the audience in such quick succession – you are with little time to digest. Imagine Paula Radcliffe running the first three legs of a 4×100 relay, she plods along in earnest bounds, gracious and dignified, while others piss past her (sorry, couldn’t resist). She isn’t going to be drawn into the sprint; she’s in it for the long haul after all. It’s taken two hours to get three hundred metres but she enjoyed the journey and for the most part, it was nice seeing her get through it. But wait, who is this on the horizon?

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‘Take ya Tena Lady Radders, Usain got this!’

Dré

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