Movie Review: Shutter Island

by Dakota Sagnelli


Each time Leonardo DiCaprio takes on a new role, it seems as if he is destined to succeed. In part because he never skimps on passion, all of his movies find themselves worldwide masterpieces, topping national Box-Office Charts. From Titanic to The Departed, DiCaprio truly knows how to transform a film into an epic. In his latest film, Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorcese, he once again gives an Academy Award-nominated performance.

Ruffalo and DiCaprio aboard the ferry

The time is 1954, the place, Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane. Located far off of Boston Harbor, a single ferry is the only way on and off the island. The “hurricane of the decade” is brewing out at sea as two U.S. Federal Marshals, Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), arrive on Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of inmate Rachel Solando, convicted murderer of her own two children.

The film immediately presents suspense through its ominous surroundings and action.  The second the two marshals step onto Shutter Island they are stripped of their only form of defense, their guns. The first man they meet is Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), head operator of Shutter Island. Cawley is mysterious and tricky,  always around when something goes wrong. The head doctor of the island, Dr. Naehring (Max Von Sydow), seems to have been a strong supporter of the Nazi ideals. Since the movie is set in a time just years after the end of World War II, the fear of Nazis, lobotomy surgery, and mind-control experiments are a recurring theme and very real fear among the characters. To make matters worse,  these fears are present and supposedly conducted on the island.

When the hurricane finally hits the island, it breaks down an entire section in the prison known as Ward C (home to the most criminally insane patients). With all of the psychotic prisoners running amok outside, the Shutter Island staff panics, literally chasing its patients around. With the staff scattered amongst the island’s tree line, Teddy Daniels and his partner sneak into Ward C (where no one is allowed without the permission and physical presence of Dr. Cawley) to further investigate the murder. Once inside, Daniels discovers the deepest, darkest secrets of the island and its conspiracy, adding an entire new piece to the Shutter Island puzzle.

Teddy amidst his haunting past

The turning point of the movie was when Teddy Daniels finds Rachel Solando hidden in a cave along the underside of the island’s mountainside. At a point when Teddy begins to question his own sanity, the viewer cannot decipher whether the whole movie is reality or hallucination.

For the entire duration of the film, the audience finds itself constantly trying to piece together reality. With all the plot twists in the movie, one finds himself dizzy by the end. There is a some confusion, mainly because there are multiple layers of truth occurring simultaneously, leaving the audience almost lost in all the action. The only negative of this movie is that the ending is somewhat predictable (do not worry, there will be no spoiler here!).

While Shutter Island does cause much confusion, it does such a fantastic job creating an elaborate mystery that would have left even Einstein scratching his head.  All in all, the film is truly a masterpiece in all aspects: the mystery keeps the audience guessing, driving the suspense skyward until the very last scene. Still to this day, a month after seeing the movie, I find myself trying to figure out what actually happened.

Shutter Island’s setting is stuck somewhere between reality and hallucination, and will truly send your mind whirring throughout its entirety.  It is a movie for the ages, and should not be missed by anyone of any age if they have any sense of what a great movie is.


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