“SHUTTER ISLAND” (Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo & Michelle Williams)
“Why you all wet, baby?” . . . the last line in one of the later chapters of the book from whence this film was created. It had me shaking my head, wondering, “Huh?” when I read it for the first time. The line is delivered too soon in the film version which lessens its ‘Huh?’ value. It was, for me, the most memorable line in the book - & the only real complaint I have with Martin Scorsese’s version is that he didn’t treat this line with the respect it deserved.
“Shutter Island” is my favorite book by my favorite author so I have often referred to it as the best book I ever read (Although I’m not going to argue with the other side of my brain that says “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” should hold that distinction)
“Shutter Island”, the movie, will have to wait a few years before I can properly place it – Watching this film wasn’t as exhilarating as I was hoping it would be & I’d say that was due to the fact that it IS the book. To say this was an ‘adapted’ screenplay is a joke; all Laeta Kalogridis did was ‘edit’ Lehane’s masterpiece so it would fit into a 2 & a quarter hour running time. After a while, I found myself mouthing the dialogue as the actors were saying their lines – sometimes even before they said them. So for me, this was too predictable - & yet the book wowed me with the unexpected twist it took after a great set up.
Leonardo DiCaprio as U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels may very well win his first Best Actor Oscar; & I say that only because he didn’t mess it up – whoever played Teddy was going to get an Oscar nomination – but, & maybe this was due to the fact that I knew the dialogue so well, there were times when I saw him as an actor reading his lines, rather than ‘becoming’ Teddy Daniels. However, he is to be commended for taking on a very difficult role.
One of my least favorite actors, Mark Ruffalo did a decent job as Teddy’s partner, Chuck Aule. It helped that the character fit well with Ruffalo’s semi-boring acting style.
My only complaint with Ben Kingsley’s performance as Dr. Cawley deals with one very poignant scene in which I felt he didn’t deliver enough impact & the aforementioned “Why you all wet, baby?” line. Otherwise, he played the ‘shifty, what-it-is-he’s-hiding-here?’ creepy psychiatrist just the way I pictured him.
Every else in the cast does fine, yet at the same time it felt as though they were being paraded thru the story like cattle – John Carrol Lynch greets the 2 Marshall’s at the ferry dock with a believable Boston accent; later, he yells at them to get out of the rain & that’s pretty much it. Patricia Clarkson’s character appears in order to spell things out for Teddy & she does so with a wonderfully eerie sense of timing. A barely recognizable Jackie Earle Haley plays battered inmate George Noyce with such great aplomb, he completely steals his one scene. & Ted Levine, as the insane asylum’s ‘Gestapo-ish’ Warden, would have been perfect if they had just given him a few more lines from the book – Levine’s one scene of dialogue is much too short & confusing – the film version makes it appear as though the Warden feels a camaraderie with Teddy, when in fact, he loathes him. In the book, when Teddy says he’s taking the ferry back to Boston, the Warden snaps, “You’re not going anywhere, boy!”
A quick run-down of the plot – Teddy & Chuck meet for the first time on the ferry that is taking them to Shutter Island which houses the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane; their mission is to find escaped mental patient Rachel Solondo. After learning that her husband had been killed in WWII (The story is set in 1954) Rachel took her three children, two boys & a little girl, & drowned them in the lake behind her house. She then brought them back inside the house & set them in chairs around the kitchen table & made them dinner.
Rachel was sent to Ashecliffe where she lived in denial of what she had done – to Rachel the kids were always at school & husband Jim was away on business. Then one morning an orderly opened Rachel’s cell to discover her missing.
Teddy & Chuck are forced to surrender their firearms & are told to ‘obey protocol’ before being allowed to enter the hospital. Teddy discovers a note left in Rachel’s room which reads ‘The Law Of 4 . . . But Who Is 67?’
The Marshall’s are then denied access to hospital records on the patients & staff, which infuriates Teddy. To appease the lawmen, Dr. Cawley, the head of administration, grants them permission to interview the patients that were part of the group therapy session Rachel attended the night before her disappearance.
One very nervous woman, who killed her husband with an axe, grabs Teddy’s notebook & scribbles something into it before returning it to him. Later, when Chuck asks what she wrote, Teddy shows him the notebook with ‘RUN’ written in bold letters.
As they interview the patients, Teddy asks each one, “Do you know an Andrew Laeddis?” Each patient looks at him strangely, but replies ‘no’.
Afterward, Chuck wants to know who Andrew Laeddis is & Teddy tells him, “He’s the firebug that lit the match that started the fire in our apartment that killed my wife...”
Michelle Williams plays Teddy’s dead wife, Delores, who appears to him in his dreams –which always end with something tragic happening (The scene where Delores slowly burns to ashes is particularly disturbing)
As the layers of Teddy Daniels’ past are revealed, we discover why he distrusts Dr. Cawley’s partner, Dr. Naehring (Max Von Sydow looking like a senile Nazi zombie)
& the correlation between Rachel Solondo’s drowned little girl & the image of a dead child that haunts him from a scene he witnessed during the war.
Teddy’s migraines cause him to ingest any medication Dr. Cawley offers & by the time he realizes what a mistake that was, it’s too late.
The ‘Shutter Island’ book leads thru many twists & turns with each one making the story more compelling – the problem with the film version is that it tries to implicate too many of these twists & so the plot seems crammed with them. Returning to the “Why you all wet, baby?” line – Sir Ben blows the delivery by saying it in a monotone – I always pictured it as being said with a lilt. Along with the odd situation of hearing a prominent doctor of psychology saying such a line to a U.S. Marshall who is pointing a rifle at him, it should have been the line that everyone remembers after they discover why it was said. & I don’t think it did that.
I’d be very interested in hearing from people who have seen the film & haven’t read the book – I don’t have the privilege of not knowing Teddy Daniels’ & Chuck Aule’s fate in the foreboding lighthouse on Shutter Island – Did the story work for you? Could you follow it, or was it too jammed pack with confusing images to keep track of what was going on? As I left the theatre, I passed a group of moviegoers who were confused by the ending. I thought of telling them what it meant but decided against it for two reasons – sometimes it’s a good thing for a movie to leave you with unanswered questions you can decipher for yourself - & 2) perhaps it will drive them to get a copy of the book. Which is precisely what happened to me after seeing Clint Eastwood’s film of the Dennis Lehane novel, “Mystic River”; I wanted to know why Kevin Bacon’s character pointed his finger at Sean Penn’s Jimmy & fired it like a gun & I found the answer in the book. & then I bought everything Lehane had written & enjoyed every experience. Which brings up the question, why hasn’t anyone made a movie out of ‘Darkness, Take My Hand’?