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It's 1954, and up-and-coming U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Boston's Shutter Island Ashecliffe Hospital. He's been pushing for an assignment on the island for personal reasons, but before long he wonders whether he hasn't been brought there as part of a twisted plot by hospital doctors whose radical treatments range from unethical to illegal to downright sinister. Teddy's shrewd investigating skills soon provide a promising lead, but the hospital refuses him access to records he suspects would break the case wide open. As a hurricane cuts off communication with the mainland, more dangerous criminals "escape" in the confusion, and the puzzling, improbable clues multiply, Teddy begins to doubt everything - his memory, his partner, even his own sanity.
For more about Shutter Island and the Shutter Island Blu-ray release, see Shutter Island Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 27, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer
Director: Martin Scorsese
» See full cast & crew
Shutter Island Blu-ray Review
Scorsese's latest arrives on Blu-ray with a knockout technical presentation.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 27, 2010
Remember us, for we too have lived, loved, and laughed.
"Odd and alluring" might be an apt description of Shutter Island, the latest in the Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio (Gangs of New York, The Departed, The Aviator) coupling. Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, the author whose works inspired Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island plays out as a mystery without much suspense, but never mind that. This is an exceptional piece of filmmaking that negates the predictability with superb craftsmanship; exceptionally-designed sets, chilling locales, gorgeous period costumes, wonderful acting, engaging direction, and all the other intangibles behind the story more often than not take center stage and help maintain a balance within the film, even when the major reveal becomes fairly obvious to the point of near-transparency about an hour into the film. A stylish noir with bite, Shutter Island feels like something of a throwback movie, due in part to the mid-1950s setting but primarily thanks to Scorsese's ability to work within traditional genre elements while also bringing to the experience a picture that's as visually stimulating, aurally unique, and surprisingly gripping as anything else out there, all despite the absence of a more heavily-veiled mystery.
U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo, Zodiac) have been assigned to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Ashecliff Hospital, a care center for the criminally insane located on the remote Shutter Island, situated some miles off the coast of Massachusetts. The missing patient -- Rachel Salando, a World War II widow and a woman accused of murdering her three young children -- has apparently vanished from the hospital, through her sealed room, past the guards, in the cold, and without footwear. It's too much for Teddy and Chuck, and they quickly believe that Rachel may have had help in her escape, a claim that the institution's head psychiatrist Dr. John Cawley (Ben Kingsley, Species) flatly rejects. When Cawley further hinders the investigation by refusing to hand over relevant materials, Teddy and Chuck expand the scope of their investigation to include both the institution and the island on which it is situated, ultimately unraveling a complex web of lies, despair, confusion, and pain that prove dangerous and inescapable enemies that may alter the very fabric of their existences.
To say that the film's predictability after a point is a shortcoming is to miss the greater purpose of Martin Scorsese's latest masterpiece. By the time Shutter Island gets around to confirming one's suspicions as to what's really happening, the viewer's attention has shifted focus from more conventional "whodunit" plot points to a mesmerizing, heartbreaking, and all-too tragic examination of a tortured soul. Shutter Island is a study of the human condition, an examination of the difficulties wrought on the mind, heart, body, and spirit through the prism of unspeakable tragedies -- plural -- that can push a man beyond his ability to cope rationally with what it is that's wiped out years of conditioning, fruitfulness, happiness, comfort, peace, and his own understanding of reality, all replaced by images and painful truths the likes of which no man should ever come to know. Shutter Island -- so named, perhaps, for those objects created to allow the passage of light or block it from penetrating the darkness, effectively reshaping an environment to one's own specifications, wants, and needs -- is about personal defense mechanisms that overtake the body and mind, blocking out and letting in just the right amount of information needed to mask the line between painful realities and promising fantasies.
Martin Scorcese accentuates the themes of Shutter Island by capturing an unwelcoming visual mood and an unsettling aural atmosphere that both add confusion and chaos rather than certainty and order to the film. Usually, that would be a death knell in the hands of a lesser director, but leave it to Scorsese to so precisely balance the overreaching story, its more intense elements, and its cockeyed technical style to perfection. Marty even adds an underlying humor to segments of the picture that are neither laugh-out-loud funny nor even mildly amusing, but such elements stem from little more than a look, a sound, something that's identifiable as a bit off-kilter but not always obviously so, lightening the picture's burden and dark mood without actually sacrificing the integrity of the atmosphere. Scorsese also uses traditional genre elements right down to the most base cliché of them all -- "it was a dark and stormy night" -- to astounding perfection, using that atmosphere, as well as its after-effects, to accentuate the story's dramatic and thematic elements. Marty's picture is just as unnerving as The Silence of the Lambs, but rather than find his tension primarily through characterization and action, he also creates it out of the film's many confined, confused, and unsure environments that acts as a proxy for all that's fermenting behind-the-scenes and to be revealed by picture's end.
Shutter Island's challenging material -- on both physical and emotional planes -- is handled with a professional ease by a faultless cast that extends from top billing to the last name on the credits. Leonardo DiCaprio has something of a bad rap in circles for being a teen heartthrob; he's grown up now, 13 years removed from Titanic, and proving himself to be a phenomenal actor who's much more than his reputation might suggest. It doesn't hurt that several of his post-Titanic successes have come under the tutelage of Martin Scorsese, but the talent shines through in Catch Me if You Can and Blood Diamond, too, though his directors in those films aren't exactly lightweights, either. The point is that Leonardo DiCaprio is no longer "Leo" -- he's beyond the "oh my gosh he's so cute I'm going to buy his poster at Wal-Mart and plaster it above my bed" phase -- and he has become a legitimate, yea exceptional, actor, one of the best of his generation and proving it again in Shutter Island by successfully navigating what is nothing short of one cinema's more challenging roles of the past several years. DiCaprio is flanked by a wonderful ensemble cast, with film legends Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow chewing up their scenes and asking for more, the veterans positively disappearing into their roles and selling all the major elements and reveals within the picture superbly. Even the tertiary characters with little-to-no dialogue excel; they all seem to fit right in and do their parts to create a seamless and wholly believable environment, which may be Shutter Island's greatest success and largest technical irony.
Shutter Island Blu-ray, Video Quality
Shutter Island reveals yet another astonishing Blu-ray from Paramount. This 2.35:1 transfer displays the film's dark noir-style imagery to near perfection, capturing the visual spirit of a bygone era but with the impeccable detailing, depth, and clarity afforded to productions of a more recent vintage. Shutter Island works via a unique visual style whereby it's dark and foreboding here, brighter and livelier there, but never does the transfer fail to handle the varied visual schemes with equal parts detail and color reproduction. Even the darkest, dingiest frames in the film sport incredible textures and low-light shadow details. Black levels are tremendous, deep and strong, and never at all too bright. On the flip side, brighter daytime scenes and several well-lit interiors deliver marvelous color reproduction; whether the green grasses and multicolored flowers about the island or several more flat but no less handsomely-rendered interiors, Paramount's transfer never misses a beat in any environment. Similarly, detailing is nothing short of exceptional; viewers will note the finest of nuances on clothing; wrinkles, lines, pores, and hairs on faces; and the rough textures of the various interior and exterior surfaces. The print is as pristine as they come, sporting nary a scratch nor speck of dirt. A thin veneer of film grain covers the screen to add a wonderful film-like texture to the presentation, and only a few minor instances of background banding mar this otherwise lovely transfer. This is what home theater is all about, and Paramount proves yet again that they're committed to delivering the finest filmic transfers to the Blu-ray market. Job well done.
Shutter Island Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Paramount injects Shutter Island with a wonderfully-realized DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Though Shutter Island lacks a more pronounced, heavy, and loud sound presentation, it nevertheless delivers a potent, seamless, and engaging listen that splendidly compliments the picture's layered nuances and overreaching plot lines. The track proves its worth mere moments after the film opens, setting the stage for what is nothing less than a superb environmental recreation that captures almost every sonic nuance with incredible precision. As a vessel sails towards Shutter Island, listeners will enjoy the sounds of gently rolling waves splashing through the soundstage. A foghorn -- or is it part of the music? -- blares away form what seems like a great distance. Chains rattle about the inside of the ship. The environment comes to life in a way that few other tracks capture, precisely placing every nuance at just the right spot and at just the right volume to truly recreate this, or most any other, setting in the film. On the island, listeners will enjoy singing birds, a slight breeze, a gentle rain, and later, a driving thunderstorm, all of which are implemented with an astonishing level of precision. A string of gunshots in chapter seven prove one of the more prominent and potent moments in the track; shots pound through the stage, echo about the back speakers, and the sound of the clips springing out of the Garands are crisply realized, even under the deluge of high-caliber devastation. The picture's unique score -- comprised completely of prerecorded material by Robbie Robertson -- is wonderfully implemented; whether the lighter classical notes or heavier, foreboding tones, Shutter Island's DTS track handles all with ease. Unfortunately, dialogue is occasionally muffled and/or drowned out by music and effects during a few scenes, particularly early on, but it presents no real problem during the bulk of the picture. All told, Shutter Island represents another seamless and high quality listen from Paramount.
Shutter Island Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Shutter Island comes to Blu-ray with but two extras. Behind the Shutters (1080p, 17:10) features interviews with cast, crew, and Author Dennis Lehane, all speaking on the themes of the story, the work of Director Martin Scorsese, the cast's preparations for their roles, the picture's music, and the film's elements of duality. Into the Lighthouse (1080p, 21:11) takes a closer look at the film's construction and the way it weaves deeper psychiatric elements into the story, the actors' understanding of the film's darker elements, set design, psychiatric care in the 1950s, and more.
Shutter Island Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Shutter Island is a "strange" movie, but not in a Terry Gilliam "strange" sort of way. No, Shutter Island is a work of art that seems to deliberately fail to conceal its secrets early on so as to more efficiently tackle the larger issues at hand, namely an examination of the human condition at its most distraught, confused, and corrupted. Reinforced by captivating performances and what is nothing short of a technical masterpiece of sight and sound, Shutter Island excels as a story not necessarily of mystery, but of remorse at the sight of a world destroyed by the sometimes inescapable evils around it. Paramount's Blu-ray release of Shutter Island is another technical stunner from the studio that delivers some of the most consistently marvelous Blu-ray presentations on the market. Boasting first-class picture and sound qualities but falling well short of the more substantial supplemental collection the film deserves, Shutter Island nevertheless comes strongly recommended on both the strength of the film and the wonderful Blu-ray presentation.
Shutter Island: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Shutter Island (2 bundles)
Shutter Island Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Lightning Deal: Shutter Island, Hannibal Lecter Collection (Update) - November 29, 2010
Amazon's third Lightning Deal for today, starting 12:40 p.m. PST, includes two Blu-ray titles:Shutter Island for $12.99 (67% off MSRP); and The Hannibal Lecter Collection (comprised of Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal) for $17.99 (74% off MSRP). ...
• Shutter Island Blu-ray for June 8 - April 19, 2010
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced that it will release Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island on Blu-ray on June 8. No edition details or special features are available at the moment. This psychological thriller, based on a novel of the same title by Dennis ...
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