SHUTTER ISLAND:

Movies set in a mental institution almost always operate under the principle that people and things there are never what they seem. That’s even applicable to the two marshals (Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo) dispatched to the asylum at the titled locale to investigate the disappearance of a child murderer (Emily Mortimer). But even this plot is merely a device used to unravel who’s really insane, who isn’t and just what a pair of “oh-so-suspicious” doctors (Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow) are up to with their patients. How we reach the conclusion is the primary asset of this film which draws us into a world that’s inherently creepy and repulsive. Credit for this should go to both Robert Richardson’s cinematography and Robbie Robertson’s (formerly of The Band) music supervision which is consistently ominous enough to instill the required amount of dread in the viewer. Equally noteworthy is Dante Ferretti’s production and set design of the cells and wards within the cold, oppressively gray interiors you’d find in a psychiatric treatment facility circa 1954. It’s essential for DiCaprio (TITANIC) to register an excellent performance since so much of the film involves his character’s inner demons, and for the most part, he delivers admirably. There are also some absorbing scenes with Patricia Clarkson (PIECES OF APRIL), Jackie Earle Haley (LITTLE CHILDREN) and Kingsley (GANDHI) that keep the narrative moving by being highly watchable. Not all of the flashback sequences and subplots in Laeta Kalogridis’s screenplay add up or are relevant pieces of the concluding puzzle, and that hinders ISLAND from being the great “picture” it could have been. But given the film’s high degree of difficulty, I’ll give veteran director Martin Scorsese (See sidebar below.) “props” for making a good movie of what could have been a bad one in someone else’s hands. CRITIC’S GRADE: B

EXCELLENT MOVIES DIRECTED BY MARTIN SCORSESE: MEAN STREETS (1973), ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (1974), TAXI DRIVER (1976), THE LAST WALTZ (1978), RAGING BULL (1980), THE KING OF COMEDY (1983), THE COLOR OF MONEY (1986), GOODFELLAS (1990), GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002), THE AVIATOR (2004), THE DEPARTED (2006)*, SHINE A LIGHT (2008)

*Won Academy Award for Best Director