It would be lying to say that Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island" isn't affecting. But then again, to really praise this film would be, too. Here's a "mind-bending" (Peter Travers) film that sometimes doesn't have the control necessary, whether it be with the overdone music (that I think A.O. Scott disliked) or the writing (that my friends and I didn't like). It works in being involving (like Owen Gleiberman said), but, hen it "reveals its twist," I couldn't help but groan, as it seems that Dennis Lehane/Laeta Kalogridis had totally ripped off "Memento."
But to deny the film has any merits would be too harsh. I really thought that Leonardo DiCaprio had a grounded presence here, playing Teddy Daniels, who comes in to Shutter Island (along with his partner Chuck, played by Mark Ruffalo in the same kind of role as always) to see what's what. May I applaud the idea of staying on Shutter Island throughout the film and only "seeing beyond it" in visions, etc. (like Ebert said of "Dogville") It's run by Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley, annoying and aggravating to his advantage), who believes in "respecting mental patients" like Benjamin Rush. The film starts as the two trying to track down Rachel Silondo, who apparently killed her children and did ghastly things with them (I'll come back to this later to discuss how disturbing this gets). But the plot does that unraveling thing and what we really find is Daniels wanting to shut down Shutter Island and simultaneously kill the murderer of his wife (Michelle Williams, who's really strange in this movie), an Andrew Laeddis. This film all kind of blends together as "the search for the truth" and everything else are all entangled.
In retrospect, this is (in a small respect) a brilliantly told film. For example, how the patient interrogation scenes are played is interesting. You'd need to see it twice to really understand the points of view of everyone throughout. How the film seems to delve into "Oldboy" surveillance is also intriguing. (I'll probably receive flak for noting this is a better film than Chan-Wook Park's. Also involved is the whole "loss of innocence" climax, where Daniels' wife tries to steer him away.) But "Shutter Island" is somewhat ruined by its willingness to mimic "Memento," which seemed horribly climaxed originally but I now see as really an appropriate conclusion. This movie couldn't really have gone anywhere else, yes, but the problem is that an idea isn't so great if you've seen it twice.
This film is problematically made, too. (On a side note: it has been ravaged for being overlong but I liked the length.) I really didn't like the beginning, when everything seemed over-simplified and (as a friend said) "operatic." The film is always flawed, sometimes minor, other times major. It never seems to know what do with a scene, plunging into melodramatic scoring when Daniels is interrogating George Noyce (Jackie Earle Haley). Plus, the whole "Liberation of Dachau" theme is way overplayed. It's sort of just "piled on," except for one amazing execution shot that, surprisingly, should go down as one of the best things that Scorsese has ever done. This is not a horrendous film. Parts stick out as being good. However, I'm not really sticking up for this movie. C+