July 7, 2010

Justify My Netflix: Shutter Island

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Shutter Island

Today's movie: Shutter Island, 2010 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because it's the latest by Martin Scorsese, and I try as much as possible to see everything that Martin Scorsese does (this is my 15th full-length feature of his, of the 21 he's made since 1973's Mean Streets); and not just that, but it's a spooky supernatural thriller too, what Scorsese calls a "genre experiment" concerning the shady goings-on at a remote mental institution in the years following World War Two.

The reality: Not too bad! And I have to say, this is a rare example of a film literally being saved by its flashy, attention-causing visuals; because in this case, it's Scorsese's usual stylistic tricks that actually elevates what would otherwise be a pretty ho-hum "Memento"-style triple-feint psychological thriller concerning the slippery line between mental insanity and "objective reality," based on the novel by Dennis Lehane. (And in fact Lehane is also the author of the similarly contrived yet much-loved Oscar bait Mystic River, which I suppose puts him in the category of so-called "Intellectualism Lite" where, say, Tom Perrotta also dwells.) The story itself shamelessly drags out an American soldier's experience with liberating the Dachau concentration camp as a way of adding false gravitas to a convoluted script whose "surprises" you can easily guess beforehand; so it's nice, then, to see Scorsese's deliberately over-the-top visuals and effects make up for these manipulations, delivering by the end exactly what Scorsese meant to make, an exciting and engrossing B-level simple genre experiment (which he utterly failed at the last time he tried this, with the 2006 crime thriller The Departed). Solidly recommended to fans of horror and other speculative tales, but do make sure to keep your expectations low going into it.

Strangest piece of trivia: At $40 million, this movie had the most lucrative opening weekend of Scorsese's entire career.

Worth your time? Yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:00 AM, July 7, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |