Shutter Island

Previews for movies can be funny things. Over time, I think we develop an ability to see through the hype to what the movie really is. Usually, if an advertising campaign is trying to make a movie out to be something, it is likely not as much of what they are trying to make it out to be.

Case in point, Shutter Island.

The advertising made the film out to be a horror movie of terrifying proportions. The film is directed by Martin Scorsese, a director whose grittiness and viscerality is almost legendary. I remember thinking while watching the previews that a horror film directed by Scorsese had the potential to be the most horrific movie ever made.

Shutter Island certainly isn’t that. It isn’t even a horror movie at all. Shutter Island is a suspense thriller, and a mediocre one at that. Billed since its theatrical release as Scorsese’s homage to Hitchcock, the “horror” of Shutter Island is mostly in the characters’ and audience’s mind.

This movie is only ok. It’s fun, but it’s not fantastic. The suspense is hindered by the film’s insistence on constantly explaining why Leonardo DiCaprio’s character (and by extension, the audience) should be scared. The first rule of film is that if you have to be told, it ain’t true. There is nothing scary about this movie.

Interspersed throughout the faux suspense are dream sequences in which DiCaprio’s character interacts with his dead wife. I won’t spoil the movie by divulging here the source of his grief, but suffice it to say that he deals with his grief in an interesting way.

How are we to deal with grief? That’s a question that deserves the breadth a life lived and not 400 words in a movie review. Mourning for what is lost is at the core of the human experience, and I think the best way to deal with that loss is to embrace it, admit it, own up to it, look it square in the eye and acknowledge it. That’s so much easier written than it is done though, and I fully support giving people what time they need to accept loss.

I also support giving them something to hold onto once they’ve grasped the emptiness of their hands. In Christ, we have hope beyond death, and I wish there was someone in Shudder Island to offer that hope to DiCaprio’s character. I applaud the grace and patience he is shown in the film. I wish he was given hope too.

And I really wish Shutter Island were as good a film as the previews made it out to be.