Harry Reviews SHUTTER ISLAND!!
Every now and again I get to have an experience that I can literally say… I never expected to have.
While prepping for BUTT-NUMB-A-THON 11, I made a list of films that I’d kill to get for BNAT, atop the list was an unlikely film. Unlikely, because I had no relationship in place with Martin Scorsese. In the 14 years or so that I have been doing AICN, our paths have never crossed. I know we share a passionate love affair with EL CID, my personal favorite epic of all time, and I know we share a love of vintage cinema and a lot of cool music, but he’s freaking Martin Scorsese – and I…. well, I’m most certainly not worthy.
I worked and worked to reach out, when finally I was told the film wasn’t quite finished, my heart sank. There’s no way Marty would let me screen a not yet completed version of one of his films, he’s Martin Scorsese. I was asked by people to write Scorsese a letter making the appeal to screen the mostly complete version of SHUTTER ISLAND. The letter was a few thousand words long and passionately described the line-up as I had programmed it leading up to where I would like to screen his film. I gave reasons behind every programming moment, the overall theme that I saw his film as possibly reinforcing, etc…
Then word came. Scorsese was sending me a print to watch, if I still felt the film was right, he’d consider letting it screen.
So that’s how I found myself at the Alamo Village one early morning in November watching a new Martin Scorsese film long before it released… next year. The film that followed was a stunning masterpiece that requires and demands multiple viewings.
It is a crime that SHUTTER ISLAND isn’t in the Awards race this year, as I feel it would most likely run off with the top honor and Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio – and I’m someone that isn’t always in Leo’s corner. This is not only his best work for Scorsese, but his best role to date.
The lead star of the film is the island. This place, as Scorsese has brought it to life, is upon first look… Not so bad. But that’s before the drugs and the hurricane and the escaped inmates. And the Doctors? Jesus. When you have Ben Kingsley running the loony bin and Max Von Sydow as a possible Nazi experimenter… and then you add to it the idea that this whole island could be an experiment from the CIA to test things that the Nazis were working on, that the Soviets are currently working on – and this is the hush hush – place where the already criminally insane bat nuts whack jobs are locked up.
You’ll have a clear idea what you’re in for when you see that one lady on the grounds that makes eye contact with Leo’s Special Agent. Scorsese is having a field day with this film in a way we haven’t really seen him play before. The whole film evokes at the beginning that quiet unsettling normality that I love out of Douglas Sirk’s world… but as the film moves on it begins to conjure comparisons to the work of Hitchcock, Sam Fuller and Fritz Lang. There’s something wrong and off about everything on the island. The doctors are definitely up to something – and it seems as though everyone from the guards to the orderlies… well, they are all in on whatever it could be.
The film has the pretense that it is a mystery. DiCaprio and Ruffalo are there to find her, but there’s zero clues. Everyone claims they were at their posts and that she apparently just evaporated. Then there’s the reason Leo wanted to get to the island, which involves Jackie Earle Haley’s George Noyce (Nightmares man, freakiest fuck I’ve seen on film in a while!) who. Well, I don’t want to give it away.
I’m actually going to cut this review short for many reasons. For one, it is so early, I don’t want to get into spoilers. Secondly, I really and honestly feel that this is a film that demands to be seen at least twice to fully appreciate. Consistently as revelations unveil, I found myself wishing to go back and apply that knowledge to things that happened before.
The surrealistic dream imagery and possible drug dosing imagery is some of the most inspired, beautiful, haunting imagery from Scorsese’s entire career. This is a triumph of filmmaking.
Oh – one last thing. Michelle Williams kills in her part. LOVE HER.
This will be the 2nd Premiere of BNAT!