Shutter Island (2010)

Martin Scorsese likes to paint on a big canvas and Shutter Island (2010) is that, in a small way, with an isolated community of wardens and the criminally insane. It’s 1954 and Teddy Danson, who is really Leonard Di Caprio in a floppy hat and G-Man suit is sent to investigate the case of a missing patient, with his partner, who doesn’t really matter because he is not Di Caprio, and something has got to give. Rachel Solando, the missing patient, seemingly escaped from a locked room and bypassed a number of wardens playing cards.Ben Kingsley, lead psychiatrist and head of the institution is sure that she’s still on the island; the only way off is by boat, but the wardens have been unable to find her. Rachel, he tells Leonardo, drowned her three children, but refuses to believe that they are dead or that she is in an institution. He cannot explain how she escaped. When Di Caprio asks for the staff records and asks to interview them and a number of patients Kingsley is suitably uncooperative to make us think he’s hiding something. As if that is not enough Di Caprio begins to hallucinate in which his dead wife acts as Greek seer and, as back- story, his traumatic involvement in the liberation of Auschwitz is also revealed. An added edge is given by the Germanic sounding Max von Syndow who plays the other leading psychiatrist on the island. A none to subtle nudge is given when Leonardo finds a scrap of paper in Rachel’s cell with the message ‘the law of 4 and who is 67’. I wasn’t sure what to think, but I was certain it was a clue that Richard Hannay, Sherlock Holmes or any of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five would have made short work of whilst eating Digestive Biscuits and going home for lashings of lemonade. When Kingley tells Di Caprio that there are 66 patients on the island, it doesn’t need a dead wife to foresee that patient 67 is the man in the straight jacket. But why? why? why? That is the question that keeps us interested. When the island is hit by a hurricane knocking out the power and opening the prison gates Di Caprio gets the chance to find out. It is, as we expected, a government job. Di Caprio finds the missing Rachel on a cave on the island and she explains it all to him/us. They are testing psychotropic drugs on the patients, performing lobotomies and it all has links to special ops and mind control. There is nothing new there. Howard Dully My Lobotomy shows how commonplace and widespread the practice was. There was no need to hide it away in an island hideaway. The shock comes from these times, not those times. Similarly, the use of the term ‘ghosts’ that were primed to perform for the US government is Manchurian Candidate territory. The denouement when it comes is a disappointment. Di Caprio is not a G-Man. He is just a patient who has lost his way and killed his wife, who drowned their three kids. Kingsley has constructed an elaborate fiction in which everyone plays a role in bringing him to his senses. I’ve been criminally insane a couple of times and I know what I’m talking about, even when I don’t and this is just pretentious rubbish and not a patch on Mad Men.