Leonardo DiCaprio is Teddy Daniels, an FBI agent sent to a mental asylum for the criminally insane on Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of one of the patients: the mysterious Patient #67. Teddy and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are not exactly made to feel welcome by the warden (Ted Levine) or the prison doctor: Dr John Cawley (Ben Kingsley); but when a storm comes in they are forced to stay for a while. Having interviewed many of the patients, including one who hands him a note saying “Run!”, Teddy starts to suspect that perhaps everything isn’t what it seems.
As the story progresses and he starts to get in over his head, Teddy thinks that he has uncovered a conspiracy whereby patients are being experimented on (in a Nazi-surgical-experimentation kind of way), in a lighthouse near the prison. When he finally makes it into the lighthouse, Teddy is confronted by Dr Cawley. It turns out that Teddy has been a patient on Shutter Island for some time now (HE is actually patient #67!), and all of the FBI scenario has been a novel role-play technique used by Cawley to try and finally cure Teddy. Or is it really? The final scene shows Teddy being led off for a lobotomy.
This is a very bleak film; the ambiance of the whole movie is either very drab or very clinical. Some of the corridors reminded me of the metal institution Sarah Conner is a patient at in T2. It rains a lot on Shutter Island too, though this is mostly due to the storm that is keeping Teddy and Chuck on the island. Of course the whole feel of the film suddenly changes towards the end as it is revealed that this has all been an elaborate role-play, and Teddy really starts to break down and doubt himself. This part is left ambiguous; is it a role-play to try and cure Teddy, or have the staff at Shutter Island managed to cover up the experimentation that is going on? If the latter is true, then the film is even more depressing!
DiCaprio gives a suitably emotional performance and is very good as his character becomes more desperate as events unfold. As his character constantly thinks back to the wife that he lost in an apartment fire, he plays the desperation and confusion very well. Mark Ruffalo is fairly insignificant (that I can remember anyway) as Teddy’s partner Chuck. It would be interesting to watch him more closely on a second viewing as he is supposed to be the doctor that has always worked with Teddy as a patient. Ben Kingsley is good as Dr Cawley, on the one hand being accommodating to the FBI, on the other being quite un-approachable, but he doesn’t really get opportunity to properly explore the character.
Shutter Island is a very good film, certainly not uplifting, but good. Perhaps stylistically not the most amazing film, but Scorsese has created a story with a memorable atmosphere, and he certainly get the audience emotionally involved with the events that are driving Teddy insane (insanerer!?). Coupled with a great performance from the increasingly impressive DiCaprio this is a film that really sticks in your head for quite a while.