Expert, screw-turning narrative filmmaking put at the service of old-dark-madhouse claptrap, "Shutter Island" arguably occupies a similar place in Martin Scorsese's filmography as "The Shining" does in Stanley Kubrick's. In his first dramatic feature since "The Departed," Scorsese applies his protean skill and unsurpassed knowledge of Hollywood genres to create a dark, intense thriller involving insanity, ghastly memories, mind-alteration and violence, all wrapped in a story about the search for a missing patient at an island asylum. A topnotch cast headed by Leonardo DiCaprio looks to lead this Paramount release, postponed from its original opening date last fall to Feb. 19, to muscular returns in all markets.
As Kubrick did with Stephen King's novel, Scorsese uncustomarily ventures here into bestseller territory that obliges him to deliver certain expected ingredients for the mass audience and adhere to formula more than has been his nature over the years. Although "The Departed" and "Cape Fear" come close, "Shutter Island" is the film that most forces the director to walk the straight and narrow in terms of carefully and clearly telling a story; if testing himself within that discipline was his intention, this most devoted of cinema students among major American directors gets an "A."
He also chose his material well. Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel is quite a few notches above the norm for mass-market popular fiction; ingeniously structured and populated with a rogue's gallery of intriguing, deceptive characters, the book is a real page-turner, spiked with game-changing twists, which draws upon perfectly legitimate medical, legal, historical and political issues.
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