June 11, 2010


As impressive as it was on the big screen, Shutter Island was made for Blu-ray. Directed by Martin Scorsese from a book by Dennis Lehane, this psychological thriller looks amazing, sounds even better, and demands that you watch it more than once. Not that it can’t be enjoyed on a single viewing but, after that, having a Blu-ray rocks because a viewer can go back and look at the incredible layers each and every person in the film has considered. And though the disc lacks the plethora of extras that seem to be standard these days, it makes up for a lack of quantity with top-notch quality. Hit the jump for more details and a spoilerific discussion on the film.

If you haven’t seen Shutter Island yet, I urge you to just go away now. You don’t want the film ruined and I plan on discussing specific reasons why. Consider yourself warned. I mean, come on! Even the DVD Extras have Spoiler Warnings! Leave! But come back after you’ve seen it.


The surface layer of Shutter Island is that two U.S. Marshalls, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, visit a mental institution in search of a missing patient, played by Emily Mortimer. They interact with the lead doctor, played by Sir Ben Kingsley and a number of other people who seem to be a part of a dastardly government conspiracy. That is, of course, until the last 20 minutes when it’s revealed that the main character, Teddy, is actually a crazy person who was given an almost Truman Show stage to play out his delusional fantasies in a radical attempt to convince himself that they aren’t true. Then, just when we think he’s been cured, it seems he hasn’t. Or has he?

Watching Shutter Island a first time, you obviously know there’s going to be a twist. The narrative is simply too out there to reach a logical conclusion. So even though it’s a satisfying ending, it’s not that big of a shock. And that’s the main issue watching the film a first time. On second viewing, however, the real twist is the incredible amount of skill and thought that went into the film. It’s like watching a whole other movie thanks to a heaping helping of dramatic irony. We now know that none of this is real and everyone is just a character playing another character. Scorsese’s direction does an absolutely brilliant job of playing with this. There are cut aways, depth of frame, subtle line deliveries and all other kinds of mise en scene that clue the viewer in on the ruse. I’ll say it again, it’s like watching a whole other movie.


In addition, the incredible music supervised by Robbie Robertson, which isn’t score but instead a collection of found music – really shines through. The tension, the serenity, it’s all there on the soundtrack in gorgeous DTS-HD audio. Plus, the visuals are jaw dropping. Thank you Robert Richardson.

The Blu-ray only has two extras: a pair of 17 and 21 minute featurettes called “Behind the Shutters” and “Into the Lighthouse.” The former focuses on the world of the film – the actors, Scorsese of course, and, most notably, the fact that during production everyone on set was thinking “How will this appear on a second viewing?” Scorsese, DiCaprio, Ruffalo and others take the viewer back and show them subtle clues sprinkled throughout the film. It’s pretty great. The latter featurette centers on the realities of the psychology in the movie. Featuring Dr. James Gilligan, one of the leading minds on the subject, it goes through and explores how factual the situations and conditions showcased are and how each actor used this knowledge to their advantage. It’s an interesting documentary, but for film geeks, not as cool as the other one.

For fans of Scorsese, psychological thrillers or film in general, Shutter Island is a can’t miss. It lends itself to multiple viewings, looks great, sounds even better on Blu and has a few extras that will certainly help you appreciate the movie more.

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