Shutter Island (2010)

shutter island

“Don’t you get it? You’re a rat in a maze.”

The Scoop: 2010 R, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley

Tagline: Someone is missing.

Summary Capsule: FBI agents investigate a missing inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane. And it’s on an island, but you probably got that from the title.  You’re smart like that.

Justin’s rating: I am not a number… I am a man!  A man who just so happens to have a number!

Justin’s review: It was a chilly fall evening, and my family — parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, wife, kids — were cozy in a cabin on a lake in Indiana.  Our family fall retreat is a tradition in our household, especially now that we’ve all moved away from home, and we spent the time playing Wii, riding a golf cart around the back yard, and catching up.

It was then that a book on the coffee table caught my eye, a book with the intriguing title of “Shutter Island”.  I picked it up, flipped to the first page, and started to feel drawn in to the tale.

“I’m reading that!” my brother Jordan said from across the room.

“That’s nice,” I replied, continuing to chew through the first chapter.  “But finder’s keepers and all that.”

He stomped to the couch and yanked it away.  “MINE!” he bellowed.

I stood up.  “Want to make something of it?”

Already, Shutter Island was making us regress to about 12 years old.  That was the power of the book.

The truth is that yes, he was reading it, so I just hopped onto my iPhone and downloaded it to Kindle, then read the whole thing before the night was over.  It was an engrossing mystery with horror overtones, and I was thrown for the loop a couple times before the end (that’s a good thing).

Fast-forward a couple months, and Shutter Island came into theaters, directed by Martin Scorsese of all people.  It really didn’t make as big of a splash as it could’ve/should’ve, but it’s still a captivating movie, especially if you’re a fan of prison movies like Shawshank Redemption.

It’s 1954, and the still-newish FBI have been called in to assist in locating a missing patient from what has to be the world’s most inaccessible mental hospital-prison-asylum-funhouse.  The prison sits on an ugly island in the middle of the Pacific northwest, and by the time the agents get there, a hurricane is on the way.

From the get-go, it’s clear that something is very much amiss on Shutter Island.  The staff is non-cooperative with the agents, the inmates are slipping them signals, and it seems that there’s a conspiracy or two afoot.  What is one Leonardo DiCaprio to do?

Not just a few people have commented that it seems as though DiCaprio starred in the same movie twice this year, with Shutter Island and Inception.  Both share eerie similarities, such as a dead wife who reappears, the theme of reality and delusion/fantasy, and mysteries buried beneath the surface of just about everyone.

Shutter Island is far more morose than Inception, featuring an oppressive atmosphere and characters pursuing a mystery that isn’t quite defined.  It is, however, an excellent manipulator of the audience’s emotions, persuading us to love and hate characters depending on the scene, and to shift your perspective constantly.  To muddy the waters further, the movie often shifts into dreams — disturbing yet can’t-rip-your-eyes-away visions — that may or may not have anything to do with the events of the island.

All in all, a top-notch movie that probably won’t be anything like you’d expect it to be.  That’s okay — just roll with it, and you’ll be thinking about it long after the final credits.

Well, that’s the most useless lighthouse I’ve ever seen.


  • The whispered line in Complex C (“Stop me before I kill more”) is likely a reference to William Heirens, a suspected serial killer in Chicago in the 1940’s.
  • This is the fourth time that director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have worked on a film together.
  • So many little clues sprinkled through this whole thing…
  • As a period piece, “Shutter Island” is laced with nods to different films in the film noir and horror genre, and could generally be viewed as a homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s works.
  • No original score was written for the film. Instead, Scorsese made use of his longtime collaborator Robbie Robertson to create an ensemble of previously recorded material to use in the film.

Groovy Quotes

George Noyce: Don’t you get it? You’re a rat in a maze.

George Noyce: You’ll never leave this island.

Dr. John Cawley: We don’t know how she got out of her room. It’s as if she evaporated, straight through the walls.

Teddy Daniels: Why are you all wet, baby?

Teddy Daniels: Which would be worse, to live as a monster or to die as a good man?

Warden: If I were to sink my teeth into your eye, right now, could you stop me before I blinded you?
Teddy Daniels: Give it a try.
Warden: That’s the spirit.

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Inception


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