Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Shutter Island


For your consideration: I’m writing a spec script: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Return. Click the sidebar poll to declare your interest. I thank you.

Sacred Cow (noun) - an individual, organization, institution, etc., considered to be exempt from criticism or questioning.

Origin: 1905–10; in reference to the traditional inviolability of the cow among Hindus.
Horror is genre. In the hands of the talented come forth the likes of Night of the Living Dead 1968. Through the lenses of a different type of talented comes The Box 2009. Talent is not all encompassing. The ability to tell stories in one genre does not necessarily translate to another. Michael Jordan sucked at baseball.

Martin Scorcese is a talented filmmaker. That is accepted fact. People like me pay good money to watch and own his work. Scorcese has hitherto never directed a horror film. The talented have an arrogance that tempts them to improve upon perfection eg formula. There are horror films with lofty intent – The Exorcist 1973 – that do not deviate from the paradigm. There are horror films with ambitions beyond their narrative – Dead Air 2009 – a failure in terms of art entertainment and allegory. Scorcese took the horror genre and tried to gentrify it. The result is Shutter Island 2010.

Mystic River 2003 was directed by Clint Eastwood ergo it was lauded by the critics so much so it won an Academy Award® nomination for Marcia Gay Harden (who should have won it for Millers Crossing 1990). The film was overblown overacted and overrated. Entertainment wise; at best it passed the time. It is adapted from the novel by Dennis Lehane. He also wrote Shutter Island (pub. 2003).

I’m not a fan of Lehane’s prose. I bought Mystic River (pub. 2001) and it failed me. Hollywood – like music and fashion – is an industry of imitation. If a novelist’s movie adaptation scores box office then the subsequent novel and back catalogue will be purchased. Stephen King. John Grisham. Thomas Harris. The fact that the book is made into film is no indicator that the book is any good: James Patterson. Harlan Coben. By definition film adaptation should stand on its own feet. It cannot equal the novel in terms of story telling but it should be plot perfect.

Shutter Island is anything but.

Two federal Marshalls (Leonardo DiCaprio and Mike Ruffalo) land on the penal colony for the insane to investigate a missing inmate. Dr Cawley (Ben Kingsley) prefers to call them patients. He’s also obstructive. It seems the entire staff lies and blocks the Marshalls at every investigative point. The law enforcers are stuck on the island under a gale force storm. DiCaprio forces everyone out of his way to find the missing mad woman but on this island Dr Cawley is the law. It is he who determines who is sane and who is insane.

The film opens with a magnificent shot of a ferry emerging through fog. This is a stamp that we are in the hands of a cinematic craft master. The next shot is of DiCaprio talking to himself in a mirror Рa dramatic bludgeon of a clich̩. Indeed this film is a tale of two techniques: visually astute and dramatically puerile.

DiCaprio’s Teddy Daniels is haunted by so many flashbacks they lose intended potency. Some of the special effects are out of TVs Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The raging storm that pens him on the isle is a device equal to the cell phone with no signal. DiCaprio’s blue collar accent is distracting and condenscending. Regardless of its plausibility it makes Daniels come across as an ignoramus in over his head. When he reveals his reason for being on the island – some sort of noble justice quest – the plot (unintentionally) descends into chaos.

This is a Martin Scorcese film.

The mainstream wouldn’t dare.

Shutter Island is Scorcese’s second biggest box office hit behind The Departed 2006 another overblown straight-to-video calibre. Casting DiCaprio is now paying off. Despite that Scorcese can do genre. He proved that in 1991 with Cape Fear but he isn’t doing it well anymore. Even though the trailer false advertised it as such Shutter Island is not a horror film. It is a thriller with pretensions of being psychological. The twist in the tale is a swerve worse than anything in the wrestling industry; the surprise is there is no surprise.

Technorati Tags:, ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator
blog comments powered by Disqus