film review: Shutter Island (2010)


Shutter Island poster Leonardo DiCaprioLike with many films that have their release dates moved around, I was skeptical of Shutter Island. As in I was expecting nothing. I was pleasantly surprised.

I have to admit, I don’t really know much about Martin Scorsese

…I say things like that and people are all “What kind of a film buff are you??”. I’m not a film buff. I like watching films but I wouldn’t say I know any more than the average person (see what I did there). In fact when it comes to the “classics” I know less than most people. Ok, I’ve seen the likes of Citizen Kane (10/10) and Seven Samurai (8/10) but I’ve never seen The Godfather Trilogy or any Hitchcock films… but back to Scorsese…

I’ve seen a couple of his films. I liked Goodfellas enough; I thought The Departed was pretty decent, though I did prefer the original Hong Kong films*. Taxi Driver I wasn’t so pushed on – if I had been in my late teens / early 20s I might have thought it was a work of genius but as is was, I’m just not that angry any more. So anyway, it’s not like I was going to Shutter Island expecting something amazing.

Now it wasn’t AMAZING but it was very good. Far better than I had been expecting. It started off a bit ominously – I did not like the hysterical music at the start at all… but I think that was just a bit of a misjudgement. In general I thought the score was very good, atmospheric, I really thought it set the tone. I found the film an unsettling watch, which was completely unexpected, it’s very rare that I’d be put off kilter by a film.. In fact the last film was probably The Exorcist… and before that perhaps Se7en (which I saw in the cinema). Course, Criminal Minds freaks me out all the time… but that’s different, popcorn TV, I don’t think too hard about it after. Films are judged under a different light.

I do hope you go see Shutter Island, it’s a classic well-crafted thriller and there’s good performances all round. I suppose there is a chance that not everyone will like it. One friend of mine really seemed to hate it. I’m not really sure why but then I’m not that inclined to ask. I can see how, if you weren’t in the mood for it, you might find some of the more obvious devices very jarring. I didn’t and to be honest I don’t think the average person will either, there’s a lot for people to enjoy about this film if you just take it at face value. There’s more there too if you decide to look a bit harder at it but I don’t think that’s necessary to enjoy it at all.

I will say this though, I’m faintly worried by how surprised I was that it was a good film. It made me worry that I may have lowered my standards too much. Perhaps I expect so little now that anything good is impressive. As I’m sure you remember from other posts of mine – I go out of my way to expect nothing… perhaps I’ve been going a bit too far out of my way.

But that’s by the by, I’ll want to see a few more good films, like this one, before I start upping my expectations again. I think I’d get depressed if I started to expect good films; you need a buffer when you see as many films as I do…


* = I may not really be a film buff but for whatever reason I’ve seen more than a few HK/Korean/Chinese and Japanese films – usually gangster films and horrors


  1. comment-avatar
    MarlenaApril 5, 2010 - 4:21 pm

    Well, with Martin Scorsese you will always get a well-crafted film, if nothing else. Maybe that’s what was so appealing – you so rarely get well-made suspense movies anymore (last one I recall was sixth sense, but I know there have been more) that your brain breathes a sigh of relief when you realize at least the director at least cares enough to put some effort in. I would definitely recommend that you watch some Hitchcock – first of all, they’re all much more entertaining than you would think, given that they are “classic.” Also, in my mind this movie was clearly inspired by Vertigo (my fave of hitchcock’s), which is a wonderfully screwed up story.

  2. comment-avatar
    MadmikeApril 8, 2010 - 4:16 pm

    I’m troubled by your statement, “when you’ve seen as many films as I have”. You give a laundry list of films that you have never seen that any dipshit with a remote interest in film has seen 20 times, so unless you spend your time watching Hanna Montana to keep your keen critical eye sharp, I’d say you don’t know fuck all about film. Shutter Island was a disasterous pretentious mess, that attempted to rip off Diabolique in the hopes of creating some film noir quality.

  3. comment-avatar
    Nicola-tApril 8, 2010 - 6:17 pm

    Well to be fair MadMike, you’re taking that out of context…

    I am in no way implying that I know all about film, when I listed those films that I haven’t seen, I was emphasising that I’m not some kind of professional film critic and that I don’t fancy myself as a film buff. I just like writing about films.

    At the same time I don’t think you’re being particularly fair in saying I know fuck all about film. I’ve seen plenty films in my time, 100s, probably 1000s, I’ve seen 35 new films this year and I have opinions on them. How could I possibly watch so many films yet know fuck all about them? I have a brain…

    It would however be fair to say that I know fuck all about film-making or even script-writing. I’ve never studied film or anything. I have an interest and I read about film-making from time to time but I definitely wouldn’t say I know all about it. But then, I’m not claiming to be some authority on that. I’m just writing about what I liked about certain films and what I didn’t like about them.

    I would say that I know a little bit about cinematography – not the technicalities of how it’s done – but of how film-makers use the tools to create mood and atmosphere. I would have done a lot of theatre lighting and have taken more than a few photos in my time so I have some idea of that.

    But back to the particular sentence you mention, I didn’t say “when you’ve seen as many films as I have” – I was not implying that I, in some way, have a more important opinion because I’ve seen a lot of films… What I was saying there was that I like to keep my expectations low because “you need a buffer when you see as many films as I do…”

    To explain, I see a lot of crap films. I go out of my way to see crap films actually, so if I went around expecting to see great films all the time, but still watched the same films that I currently watch, I’d be pretty upset all time.

    As it is, I can also get enjoyment out of crap films. So I’m happy with that.

    Also I liked Shutter Island – some people liked Shutter Island, others didn’t and I can understand that as well. I didn’t think it was crap but clearly you did. Good to know. I find it interesting to hear different opinions about films and that’s one of the reasons I started the blog.

    I don’t know really know why you have to insult me personally if you don’t agree though. Is it because I haven’t seen a few famous, critically acclaimed film? So what? There are plenty of critically acclaimed movies I have seen… I’ve also seen many great films that aren’t as well known and many truly awful films, Hobgoblins and Monster Man spring to mind, as well as Miss Congeniality 2 – surely I’m allowed to have some kind of opinion no?

    Anyway, I’m interested in Diabolique now, I hadn’t heard of it but I’ll give it a look if I can find it. That’s another reason I started the blog, I wanted to hear about other films worth watching too. I presume you’re talking about the 1955 French film?

    I haven’t seen Hannah Montana, was it any good?

  4. comment-avatar
    M. Carter @ the MoviesMay 4, 2010 - 6:57 pm

    There is much to be enjoyed about crap films. In fact, I started a series on my blog I call “Terrifically Terrible Cinema,” and it’s devoted to godawful movies I love.

    As for “Shutter Island,” I’d say it was worth the wait. I stand behind the Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio pairing; I think they work extremely well together. The score was fantastic and the visuals were impressive. My quibbles mainly have to do with what looks to be sloppy editing (if it’s sloppy enough that catches my attention, rest assured it is SLOPPY) and some of the characters being underused, like Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson.

  5. comment-avatar
    Nicola-tMay 4, 2010 - 10:23 pm

    Wow. I actually forgot Jackie Earle Haley was in this film. And that’s after just writing a comment about him on your blog. I was literally just thinking I hadn’t seen him in anything except Watchmen – I guess he really was underused in this!

    I did notice a little bit of dodgy editing in it but to be perfectly honest, good visual editing seems to be a dying art. Everything I’ve seen lately seems to have strange abrupt cuts… not a trend I’m happy about but one I’m willing to overlook in a good film…

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