EXPECTATIONS: Martin Scorsese hasn't made a really great film in a pretty long time, but he hasn't made any duds.... yet. Even films like Kundun and The Aviator were pretty epic in scale and had that whole massive Scorsese vibe to them. Will Shutter Island continue this epic-but-not-great trend?
REALITY: You know how occasionally you pick up a DVD case at the video shop that has a handful of really great actors in it, but it's for a film you've never heard of? You wonder, "With this much mega star power, how was this film not given a massive advertising budget and a cinema release?". There is the extremely occasional chance you rent one of these films and get a gem that's been robbed of having more of an audience, but it's more likely a total dud or just a completely underwhelming film experience. That's what Shutter Island was for me. If this didn't have Scorsese's name on it I'm pretty sure it would have been lost among the many mediocre video store films with mega casts.
The performances are all fine, but I felt sorry for pretty much everyone in this film. I picked the end waaaay too early and I just did not understand what Scorsese was trying to do. I thought perhaps he was trying to create an odd, creepy vibe, but it felt half hearted. If you're going to make a strange feeling film, I say go for it, head first. This feels like a Scorsese dipping his toes into strangeness instead of diving in, and ending up with a dull mess.
There are elements of "horror" included, but they are stuffed up beyond belief. At one point DiCaprio is in a dark cell block. He continually lights matches in order to see in the dark. This would have been an effective creepy lighting technique, except the rooms are all lit up like it's freaking daylight, and pretty far from being scary at all. It's just silly.
I might sound too harsh, but Scorsese is capable of far better than this, and I think if he didn't direct Shutter Island the chances are we would never have seen it at all.