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The mind has many corners in its many-wrinkled maze,
To hide from heavy burdens that it cannot hope to raise.
The layers of its labyrinth stretch to depths we cannot guess,
And how deeply we flee depends upon our yesterdays.

While most of us can cope with just the top tiers meant for stress,
The world at its most wicked makes us seek a dark recess.
And if we lose our way, the dark that darkness drove us to
May keep us from escaping our escaping in excess.

MPA rating: R (for violence, language, and brief nudity)

A Merry belated Christmas to all! I may have given up on reviewing all my 2022 Blindspots before the end of the year, but I think I can at least watch them all before year’s end. The reviews will catch up in good time. To be honest, I haven’t seen many Martin Scorsese movies, so I figured I should address that by starting with the one that seemed to have the most intrigue to it. Based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, Shutter Island is a psychological thriller that thrives on its foreboding atmosphere and strong performances, even if it ends up feeling like a mid-tier M. Night Shyamalan plot.

Leonardo DiCaprio delivers an intense performance as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, who arrives with his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) to the titular island’s Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane to investigate a recently escaped prisoner/patient. Despite requesting their help, the hospital’s head psychiatrist Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) is hesitant to divulge certain information to the marshals, even as a hurricane moves in to wreak havoc on the island. As Daniels becomes more and more haunted by his own past traumas, he begins to question reality and what kind of conspiracy he has come to confront.

It’s a bit surprising that, despite its acclaimed director and star, Shutter Island failed to generate any awards nominations, aside from a National Board of Review nod. Whether you connect with the story or not, there’s no denying the skill with which it was made: the dingy lighting, the ominous cinematography, the subtle performances. Inception was easily DiCaprio’s better puzzle-box film that year, but it’s still interesting that this film couldn’t snag a single nomination.

I was rather shocked while admiring an especially poignant portion of the musical score as I realized that I had heard it before in another film: “On the Nature of Daylight” by Max Richter added the same emotional gut punch to the ending of Arrival (far more effectively, in my opinion) and other films and TV shows besides. I didn’t realize till afterward that this track was not original to either film or that the entire soundtrack of Shutter Island comprised pre-released classical music.

Perhaps it didn’t help that I had some idea of what the film’s key twist would be. I credit the screenplay for still keeping me guessing and wondering if I was right or not, but yes, I was right. Not to say the film’s reveal wasn’t still effective and heartbreaking, but it didn’t have the same punch as something completely unforeseen. Overall, Shutter Island reminded me a bit of Nightmare Alley in its masterfully composed story and dark setting that I appreciated without being truly drawn into, probably because of its ending clearly designed to foster thoughtfulness in the audience rather than satisfaction. But it’s still an excellent genre piece ripe for theorizing that will no doubt reward further rewatches, which could perhaps raise my opinion of it even more.

Best lines: (Rachel Solando) “People tell the world you’re crazy, and all your protests to the contrary just confirm what they’re saying.”
(Teddy) “I’m not following you, I’m sorry.”
(Rachel) “Once you’re declared insane, then anything you do is called part of that insanity. Reasonable protests are denial, valid fears paranoia…”
(Teddy) “Survival instincts are defense mechanisms.”
(Rachel) “You’re smarter than you look, Marshal. That’s probably not a good thing.”

Rank: List Runner-Up

© 2022 S.G. Liput
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