Shutter Island (2010)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Laeta Kalogridis (Screenplay), Dennis Lehane (Novel)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas
In the film Adaptation (2002) a character states that the only thing that matters for a successful film is that you wow the audience in the end. He says "The last act makes a film. Wow them in the end and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end and you've got a hit." This is how a lot of movies are viewed. If you wow the audience enough in the end they will forget all about the problems with the rest of the film. Unfortunately filmmakers have used this as a crutch to make audiences fall in love with bad films. Audiences have learned to love and expect twist endings so much that they want to see them every where. Marketing teams take advantage of this and advertise the hell out of anything that comes close to having a twist ending.
I think this is part of the reason that Shutter Island (2010) seems to be such a misunderstood film. It was marketed as having a really big twist and many people that see the film want to believe that there is a huge twist.. The truth is though, there isn't really a twist in the film and I think that this disappoints a lot of people. The movie is just an extremely well told, suspenseful story. It makes you question where it is going several times. However the story follows a very logical progression and things are slowly revealed in a way that makes perfect sense. This is the difference between a good, "Hitchcockian" suspense film and a film that uses a twist as a crutch.
I am a big fan of Hitchcock so I tend to not just throw around the term "Hitchcockian" to any suspenseful film. Hitchcock was the master of creating suspense and Scorsese manages to come pretty close to creating a film that Hitchcock would have been proud to claim as his own. Hitchcock also knew how to create a great suspense film without relying on a twist to sell the film. Rear Window (1954) is one of Hitchcock's most suspenseful films and there isn't a twist to be found.
Everything that happens in Shutter Island makes perfect sense and is actually foreshadowed several times throughout the film. You may not see exactly where the film is going and there are several parts in the film where you will question why certain things are happening. It will all slowly begin to come together in a very well thought out and realistic way though. This is one of the stories that was completely planned out from the beginning and didn't feel like some twist was added because the writer painted himself into a corner and had nothing else to do.
On top of how well written it was the film was also extremely well acted. I am not the biggest fan of Leonardo DeCaprio, he just never really seems old enough to play the roles he is playing. I did like him in this movie though. Sure, he still looked young but he did a great job pulling off the U.S. Marshall that is tormented by his past. Mark Ruffalo also did a great job as Decaprio's partner and Ben Kingsley does a great job as the Doctor in charge of the asylum. All of the smaller roles were well done as well from Jackie Earle Haley's performance as an inmate to Ted Levine as the Warden.
Scorsese also manages to have an amazing visual style as well. As mentioned he manages to do a pretty good job channeling Hitchcock to create suspense but he also seemed to do a great job channeling Stanley Kubrick's visual style during different parts of the film. He doesn't copy Kubrick's style exactly but there are definitely parts of the film where you can see how much Scorsese was influenced by Kubrick. Scorsese does this without sacrificing his own style though. You can definitely tell that this is Scorsese's movie but he was smart enough to know when to borrow from some of the other masters out there.