shutter-island-leonardo-dicaprio Movie: ‘Shutter Island’
Rating: R for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity.
Director/Producer: Martin Scorsese
In Theaters: Feb. 19, 2010
Runtime: 139 minutes

I kept trying to bribe my teenager to go see ‘Shutter Island’ with me, mainly because the previews made it look pretty scary! But he begged off, so I went by myself, and … it wasn’t all that scary. It’s more of a mind-twister than a psychological thriller, though it definitely falls into that category, too.

I’d been looking forward to it, because it’s hard not to get excited about the pairing of Leonard DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, the dynamic duo who’ve made scores of films together, including ‘The Departed’ (one of my all-time favorite movies), ‘The Aviator,’ and ‘Gangs of New York.’

Set in 1954, ‘Shutter Island’ – directed and produced by Scorsese – stars DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels, a U.S. marshal investigating the disappearance of a patient from Boston’s Ashecliffe Hospital on Shutter Island, a gloomy place where the worst of the worst mental patients reside.

We learn that Daniels has been pushing for an assignment on the island for personal reasons; there’s a firebrand patient there who set fire to Daniels’ apartment building, killing his wife Dolores (Michelle Williams). But once Daniels and his newbie partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), take the ferry to the island, they discover some sinister goings-on.

Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow) are two of the main doctors, and their treatments range from unethical to illegal to, yes, sinister. Teddy gets nowhere in the investigation, partly because he’s not allowed access to crucial files, but also because his mind starts playing tricks on him. He has massive headaches and starts hallucinating that his dead wife is talking to him, among other things.


Aside from the great leads, everyone in this movie is great casting, including Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson as incarnations of the missing patient, Jackie Earle Haley as another patient, and Ted Levine as a creepy warden.

It’s definitely a bit more commercial than some of Scorsese’s films, but worth a look if you’re a fan of his work, the actors, or psychological thrillers. DiCaprio remains one of the best actors of his generation.

The setting is awesomely creepy (Medfield State Hospital in Medfield, Mass., was among the locations), and not a detail was missed, from the 1950s clothing to the dark soundtrack by Robbie Robertson that plays throughout the film.


If you saw the movie, I would love to get your take on the “big reveal” at the end. I’m still on the fence as to what’s truth and what’s a lie, but I guess I have to resign myself to the fact that it is what it is. That bandage on Teddy Daniels’ head was there for a reason.

Image: Paramount Pictures


  1. I watched this with my son and his friend Saturday night. I enjoyed it, but they didn’t as much. They were expecting it to be “scary,” but like you said, it was more of a psychological thriller. Going in knowing it was a psychological thriller would have made the experience better for all, but it was still good.

    As far as the ending, my take was that he decided he would prefer the “treatment” rather than facing reality of what really happened for the rest of his life. But there’s always that “what if?”

    • As far as the ending, my take was that he decided he would prefer the “treatment” rather than facing reality of what really happened for the rest of his life. But there’s always that “what if?”

      Oh my gosh, Cheril, I hadn’t even thought of that, but I bet you’re right on that score.


      Did you think he’d been there for as long as the story arc implied?

    • Julie – There were definitely a few jump-out-of-your-seat moments, but I didn’t think it was nearly as scary as the trailer made it out to be. Maybe I’m just jaded, though. I didn’t think ‘Paranormal Activity’ was that scary either, and some people called it the scariest movie they’ve ever seen. Which is weird for me, because I’m usually terrified at the slightest thing. 🙂

  2. I really wanted to see this, but after hearing the reviews – I just can’t do it. Scary movies terrify me and psychological thrillers even more so!!!

    • Nikki – Yeah, I hear ya. ‘Shutter Island’ is one of those movies that leaves you wondering and turning things over in your head for days. I started thinking it was a little like ‘A Beautiful Mind’ in that way. It’s like, what did I just see?

  3. I wasn’t going to watch this coz the previews looked way too scary for me, but now that my hubs spoiled it, maybe i’ll watch it and try to get the story, and then i won’t be too scared. LOL

  4. I thought the band-aid was to cover and experimental partial lobotomy scar and that the ferry ride was his return to the island. The role playing was so elaborate to prove the success of the surgery. If the purpose of the treatment was to bring him to reality, it was unsuccessful. In the last moments, Teddy speaks to Chuck, then Chuck shakes his head, I believe that is to signify the surgery didn’t work. Entertaining movie. Good blend of Scorcese and DiCaprio.

  5. I also wondered about the band-aid on DiCaprio’s head.

    I scoured the internet for an answer to why it was there.

    Somehow in reading all the questions— it made me think.

    I think I came up with an answer, although it probably is just a lame guess:
    The band-aid represents Teddy’s psychological attempt to cover the horrible scar on his psyche, “a band-aid on a hemorrhage if you will”. Before you just laugh it off, remember, that after the lighthouse scene it is gone, but there is a small ‘y’ shaped scar where the band-aid has been— the delusion is over, but the scar remains.

    Dumb? OK, maybe— your turn! : )

  6. Gary – That makes perfect sense to me, especially since, as you mentioned, the band-aid disappeared after the lighthouse scene.

    Now that Shutter Island is out on DVD, we should all watch it a couple more times and post any additional revelations! It certainly got us all thinking.


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