This was a bit of a strange one. It’s a film that is trying so hard to be dark and gothic in a way it over-shoots the mark. I (and I think my neighbours too) found a regular problem in the film would be the volume dropping lower and lower, meaning I would turn the TV up further and further so I could hear only to have someone shout or scream. I don’t know if the idea was to make you jump, but it was more annoying than anything.
In the early stages of the film a good atmosphere is built up. The characters trapped in a mental hospital with a storm raging outside, this leads to a building level of tension. I don’t know if it’s because I ended up watching the film in two parts but I found that this level of tension dropped towards the end, the film just didn’t grip me nearly as much. I found this strange as I found that I could slip straight back into the film after the break, if I’m honest I don’t quite know where the film lost that feeling of foreboding and tension.
I though that Leonardo DiCaprio performed very well in the main role. He’s an actor whose been building up and developing on screen into a commanding presence and a strong leading man, hopefully he will not get lax after the critical success of Inception, and will keep looking out the roles like this that challenge how you think. Mark Ruffalo was also good playing a character that felt relegated to the side lines but filling this character with personality and meaning that they just didn’t fade into the sidelines as filler. Ben Kingsley was also good playing the head doctor of the psychiatric hospital, playing a perfect balance of menacing and reasonable which keeps you constantly on your toes when it comes to the character.
There are points of the film that are stylistically stunning. An early dream sequence set in a burning flat is full of clouds of ash billowing around the action, un-needed but leading to an arresting sight. An interesting choice was the one not to compose any original music for the film, but to instead adapt modern classical pieces to suit the film. This helps give the film it’s period setting, while at the same time leading to a strange feel in the music – there are a couple of times when for me the music didn’t really work, with horns blaring more like a foghorn warning you’re about to hit a twist rather than accenting the scene.
I found Shutter Island an interesting experience – it is by no means perfect but it tells a good story and explores it’s ideas in an interesting/different way. It’s worth a look for the performances of the main actors but I wouldn’t class it as one of the best films I’ve seen this year.