About 20 minutes into Martin Scorsese's latest film, "Shutter Island", I completely forgot that Scorsese was directing it. The rest of the film felt like Alfred Hitchcock had come back from the dead to direct the film. In other words, the spirit of Hitchcock is alive and well in "Shutter Island", a film that would have made the master of suspense proud. Simply put, the film is one of Scorsese's finest and most unrestrained films. At once, it's accessible to mainstream audiences and a cinema lover's dream. It's also the darkest film in Scorsese's career.
The storytelling is brisk, fast-paced, and thoroughly gripping. You'll be sitting on the edge of your seat the entire time, which is saying a lot considering the 2 hour 18 minutes running time of the film. Not once did I feel the length of it. In fact, by the time the film reached it's shocking climax, I wanted more. A day later and I already want to see the film again, just to look for clues and details I might have missed the first time. In keeping with the best of the genre, "Shutter Island" is all about mood, atmosphere, and suspense. In fact, it represents a watershed moment for horror and psychological thrillers, standing head and shoulders above any film in the genre release in the last decade or two. But what makes the film so great is not the scares, but the chilling atmosphere of the film. From the start, you get a sense that Shutter Island is like a living haunted house, an organism of it's own. And things only get more creepy from there. Scorsese must have watched a lot of Hitchcock and Robert Wise to get a sense of where he wanted to go with this film. But that's the beauty of the film. It's doesn't go for cheap shock-value scare tactics.
It's an extremely violent film, but the violence is all part of the context of the film. It's intellectual, it serves the story, makes us really feel the sense of paranoia and terror that is so clear on the face of Leonardo DiCaprio, who gives one of, if not the best performance of his entire career in the film. He is at once terrfying and terrified. It's a difficult role, one where an actor must be clenched from the beginning, much like Al Pacino in "The Godfather Part II".
On the technical side of things, the film is literally perfect. Everything from Robert Richardson's gorgeous cinematography to Dante Feretti's spooky set design to living legend Thelma Schoonmaker's startling and masterful editing is all top notch. Scorsese's direction is superb. An extended nightmare sequence is the stuff of any film lover's dreams.
I've been saying it for years, a great film is a great film is a great film. "Shutter Island" is one hell of a great film from cinema's greatest living filmmaker. In fact, I'd argue it's Scorsese's finest film since "Goodfellas". Do yourself a favor and see this movie if you have any love for movies at all.