Guilt and redemption intertwined in Shutter Island

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With Shutter Island, director Martin Scorcese has made a spectacular return to the suspense-thriller genre he last tackled with 1991’s Cape Fear. Both films veer close to horror territory at times, but while Cape Fear traded in more visceral shocks, Shutter Island is psychological and atmospheric. Scorcese’s usual themes of guilt and redemption lend weight to the story, and there’s plenty of symbolism to explore. The film centers on U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DeCaprio) is a man haunted by his past. As a soldier, he witnessed firsthand the horrors of the Dachau concentration camp. Then, after returning home from the war, he lost his wife (Michelle Williams) in a fire. Along with his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), Teddy has been sent to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from Shutter Island, a foreboding hospital for the criminally insane. That anyone could have escaped seems impossible. Even stranger, the marshals find their investigation blocked at every turn by the very people who asked for their help, head doctors Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Naehring (Max Von Sydow). It soon becomes apparent that the missing patient is just one piece of a much larger puzzle. DiCaprio is excellent as a man struggling to keep the horrors in his mind at bay while doing his job. Ruffalo’s performance helps balance DeCaprio’s darkness, bringing just the right amount of humor and humanity to the film. Every supporting role has also been cast for maximum impact, from the grotesque inmates played by Jackie Earle Haley and Elias Koteas to Von Sydow and Kingsley’s slyly sinister doctors. The location becomes almost another character itself, with Shutter Island earning a place alongside iconic buildings such as the Overlook Hotel from Kubrick’s The Shining and Hill House from Robert Wise’s The Haunting. ****

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