Mercy IV

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Shutter Island

Film Review by Dean Duncan Mar 28, 2015

From reading Dennis Lehane’s source novel you might expect this to be another one of Martin Scorcese’s wearisome, increasingly unnecessary Mean Streets/Raging Bull/Goodfellas/Casino-like films. But it’s not. After the bughouse bits, and through the superb integration of the WWII material and the protagonist’s personal trauma, Shutter Island ends up being quite straightforwardly, quite movingly charitable. All of this ridiculous effort, all this outrageous contrivance for this one poor guy! (It’s a great theme: Stone Reader, [q.v.], etc. In fact, is there a better one?) The Ben Kingsley character’s actions, at first seeming so obfuscatory, emerge as being especially impressive, especially touching in their kindliness.

Throughout his long and prolific career Scorcese has given us plenty of the evil that men do, and just as much of the rotten that men are. But here (Bringing Out the Dead, a few others) he is more interested in the sorrow that men feel. Much more edifying! Shutter Island is also graced by a dramatically/structurally interesting series of guest appearances. They’re cameos, basically, and they’re really striking (Haley, Levine, Clarkson.). Special commendation for Robbie Robertson’s exemplary assembled score.