Shutter Island starts off with US Marshalls Teddy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) on the ferry going to Shutter Island. Shutter Island is a federal mental institute for the criminally insane and one of the patients has disappeared, so it’s Teddy and Chuck’s job to investigate how this patient got out of a locked room and passed the orderlies in her way and escaped the grounds, all while bare foot. Doesn’t take long before Teddy and Chuck start noticing little things are wrong, the patients describe things in the same terms as the head psychologist, and seem afraid to answer questions about a specific patient.
We come to learn the patient Teddy is asking about was responsible for the death of his wife and he’s been waiting for a chance to come to Shutter Island in order to investigate this patient and why he has seemingly disappeared from all the paper work. While investigating the patient he was sent to find suddenly reappears with no sign she had been outside so they become increasingly suspicious and Teddy begins suffering migraines and delusions of his wife.
Shutter Island begins with an off-kilter feel, you know there isn’t something quite right with the whole situation but you’re not entirely sure what it is. It builds a really strong atmosphere over the first half of the film, using sounds that feel wrong, shots that don’t quite match what you’re seeing and hearing to give you a slightly unsettled feeling. It works and makes you feel you’re not entirely sure what’s wrong but there is a general feeling of wrong-ness about the island and the people who run it, as well as the psychopathic inmates.
I do have one or two complaints, one is that the music occasionally feels overpowering, it never covers the dialogue or anything, but sounds entirely too loud when there’s no real reason for it. There are some discordant sections which add to the odd atmosphere but scenes like the entrance in to the hospital just seem too loud.
The second complaint is that the film works really well at the start when it’s playing things ambiguously but in the second hour it becomes more and more overt, which tipped me off to the ending earlier than I felt was necessary it also made it feel much more conventional.
Despite this gripes I have it doesn’t take enough away from the film to ruin it, or even make it anything less than one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve seen in a long time.