2010 // USA // Martin Scorsese // June 11, 2010 // Blu-ray - Paramount (2010)
[Note: This post contains spoilers.]
Grading on a curve is a tricky and sometimes ill-advised endeavor, but now that I find myself at the halfway point in an apparently dismal year for cinema, Martin Scorsese's relentlessly moody labyrinth seems to merit a bit more affection than I afforded it back in February. Granted, the flaws that were in evidence on a first viewing are still present: the dearth of gratifying horror rhythms; the relative aimlessness of the middle act; the fragility of Dr. Crawley's outlandish scheme. However, the whiff of disposability that emanates from any film reliant on a concluding twist proves to be phantasmal here, for a second visit to Shutter Island provides bountiful avenues for engagement. Foreknowledge of "Teddy's" situation reveals a marvelously scrupulous aspect to the film's assembly, especially vis-à -vis its performances. One could dedicate a screening solely to observing Mark Ruffalo or Ben Kingsley, each of whom delivers a stunningly modulated portrayal that operates on two planes simultaneously. Even the reaction shots from the bit players offer a peculiar kind of amusement, with each actor discovering their own way to convey, "I can't believe we're going along with this..." In the end, however, the film succeeds on the strength of DiCaprio's throbbing performance, unquestionably his best in years, which arrives brimming with sweaty, anxious hostility and descends to place where oblivion seems a sweet release. What might have been a garish carnival hoax is synthesized into a searing portrait of a man hollowed-out by unsettled guilt and rage. While the film's ruminations on aggression are of a piece with Scorsese's absorption with "men of violence," as Dr. Naehring describes Andrew, the film is far more compelling (and vigorous) when it is occupied with memory's double-edged sword. In this, Andrew shares with Lost Highway's Fred Madison a preference for "remembering things in his own way," as opposed to confronting the horrors that he has witnessed and wrought.