Just how obvious is the big "twist" that concludes Shutter Island, Martin Scorsese's adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel? So obvious that some folks who haven't read the book are figuring it out simply by watching the trailer. But just how accomplished is the picture anyway? Enough that viewers will happily be led down the rabbit hole by a director with the ability to distract them with every technique at his disposal.

Delivering yet another topnotch performance that might help him win some sort of lifetime achievement award before he even hits 40, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Teddy Daniels, a U.S. federal marshal who, with his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), travels to a mental asylum located on a remote island off the Massachusetts coastline. The year is 1954, and the lawmen are there to investigate the disappearance of one of the inmates. But although the head of the facility (Ben Kingsley) assures them that they'll have the full cooperation of the entire staff, it soon becomes apparent that everyone has something to hide, and Teddy must suss out the truth even while plagued by debilitating headaches, gruesome flashbacks to his World War II years, and disturbing hallucinations involving his deceased wife (Michelle Williams).

Scorsese's in pulp fiction mode here (see also Cape Fear and The Departed), which essentially means that this is one of those pleasing instances when "B"-movie material is given the "A"-list treatment. The screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis is packed with so much intriguing incident that it's easy to not even notice the plotholes until post-movie reflection, and all the craftspeople who won Oscars for Scorsese's The Aviator are back on board, resulting in an immaculate presentation that fully engages the senses. And while the major plot pirouette will disappoint discerning viewers, it's followed by an ambiguous coda that insures all moviegoers will exit the Island with at least something to ponder.



More by Matt Brunson

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    Smart movies tend to avoid offering obvious patterns, imbecilic narrative coincidences, and imploding third acts. Unfortunately, The Accountant isn’t that smart.
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    The movie is based on the 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery that took place in Charlotte, and scripters Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Emily Spivey refused to change the names to protect the stupid.
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  • Review: The Magnificent Seven
  • Review: The Magnificent Seven

    While it’s admirable that the filmmakers forged their own path, it’s also lamentable in that, overall, these men aren’t nearly as interesting or as memorable as the 1960 models.
    • Sep 20, 2016
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