Film Review: Vet-produced thriller abound with highs, lows

A missing person on a stormy night, a secret hidden in a guarded lighthouse and a tragic hero searching for the truth; like strokes on a canvas, these are the classic elements that slowly but surely coalesce and create a riveting picture of modern movie noir in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island.

The film begins like a mystery should: the year is 1954, and two United States marshals, Edward "Teddy" Daniels and Chuck Aule (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, respectively), are on a ferry sailing for Shutter Island, home to the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane. Called in to investigate the strange disappearance of one the patients, Rachel Solando, the marshals are met with resistance and suspicious behavior from everyone, from the head psychiatrist down to the lowest of orderlies.

Soon, what starts as a routine inquiry into Solando's whereabouts reveals itself to be so much more, and, with a terrible hurricane making escape next to impossible, Daniels and Aule must find answers to a great conspiracy before they become prey to the island's dangerous game of mental chess.

Maybe not the most original of plotlines, but the story is a classic one, and the sheer brilliance by which it was crafted, the details and the quiet intricacies that can only be appreciated once the twist ending is achieved, are nothing short of breathtaking.

Shutter Island doesn't reveal too much of itself. It's sometimes jarring and disjointed as it transitions between dream and flashback, hallucination and reality, like still shots glimpsed through a camera's shutter, but the whole movie, when it comes together, is astounding and worthy of even a second viewing.

No one would guess, however, that such an intelligent and artful film would commence after viewing the first five to 10 minutes, which is strange from Scorsese. Heavy, misplaced music, waves that don't roll in time with the rocking of the boat, a clunky deliverance of the exposition: perhaps these were all conscious decisions on the director's part to instill a kind of old-school Hollywood mystery feel into his film. Yet, in a movie as slick and cinematically innovative as this one, such shoddy choices just don't click.

Fortunately, the awkward moments only last for a little while, and it doesn't take long for the movie to hit its suspenseful stride, taking audiences along on the protagonist's thrilling, yet thought-provoking, journey to the brink of insanity.

Though phenomenal acting abounds in this movie, it is through the strength of DiCaprio that makes this journey even feasible; it is his perspective that audience's follow and his conclusions and delusions that we internalize. The core of the entire film is his emotional and poignant portrayal of a man desperate to make sense of the situation into which he has descended.

Though Shutter Island is, at times, rough and the picture is surprisingly uneven at the start, Scorsese is still one of our greatest artisans, and he proves it by giving audiences a gripping yet subtle psychological treat that frees us all from the painfully pitiful cinematic prison of the past two months.

Film ReviewShutter Island☆☆☆☆

The Writer RecommendsA Beautiful Mind (2001). Directed by Ron Howard.Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris.

The Departed (2006). Directed by Martin Scorsese.Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson