Who's In It: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas
The Basics: Shutter Island, the real estate property, features spooky trees, ominous buildings, a creepy mental hospital for the criminally insane, angry-god weather, rat-filled caves and gruesome hallucinations. The freezing, leaking mausoleum on the island's Cemetery of Anguished Doom may, in fact, be the happiest place there. So why is Federal Marshall Leonardo DiCaprio so insistent on staying and uncovering the truth about a missing inmate? And why is she missing? And who is she really? And what's with the cryptic notes he finds? And the freaky lady with no hair? And the little dead girl? You get no answers from this review. I only spoil the ones I hate. PS. Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner hook up at the end of Valentine's Day.
What's The Deal: They used to call films like this "B-movies" because they were cheaply made and were about haunted houses. And now the B-movies have Grade-A budgets and huge stars and fancy directors like Martin Scorsese, which means that the filmmaking becomes more important than the subject matter. If you wanted to, you could take the film's post-war shellshock, horror-hospital setting and tense, mind-scrambling paranoia about government conspiracies as commentary on How We Live Now. But I think it's sort of just about the haunted house. And that's okay because it's really great at being about the haunted house.
Stuff That's Perfect: Every detail of the production design is on point for maximum dread and psychic confusion, every scene is lit like a nightmare, every digitally inserted fake thing looks real, every early 1950s period piece of set or costume is meticulously right, every note of the crushing, almost hilariously histrionic score lands exactly where it should. It's all there to remind you that when you have a filmmaker in charge who cares deeply about movies (and delights in visually referencing them in subtle ways) that even a haunted house thriller can be thoroughly satisfying.
Scene Stealing From:
1. Patricia Clarkson, who plays a character I can't really talk about in too much detail, but who just sort of walks into the movie about 2/3 of the way through and wrecks everything Leo thinks he knows.
2. Jackie Earle Haley, a man who clearly loves his career renaissance and has zero vanity about how he's being typecast all over the place as Freakiest Looking Dude in the Movie.
3. Robin Bartlett (no, I'd never heard of her either, had to go look her up on IMDB) as a particularly distressed inmate with some helpful(?) advice for DiCaprio.
DiCaprio Naysayers, Take Note: The Departed should have convinced you of his ascendance into grown-up territory, but if it didn't then this movie should. I believe it's time to give the guy a break for his babyface features, to stop looking at him like a child with a man's mustache and start looking at him as a man with a child's mustache.