In 1954, when a patient goes missing at the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane on the storm-battered Shutter Island, US Marshal Edward 'Teddy' Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is sent to investigate. Accompanied by partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), Daniels begins his inquiries, learning from head psychiatrist Dr John Cawley (Ben Kingsley) that the missing woman, Rachel Solando, vanished from a locked room without a trace. Incarcerated after murdering her children, Solando's bizarre disappearance leads Daniels on a nerve-shredding investigation of the eerie building and its grounds, as he attempts to glean information from the institution's staff and patients. Experiencing bizarre dreams about his deceased wife Dolores (Michelle Williams) and haunted by his experiences in WWII, the case soon takes its toll on Daniels as he struggles to separate fact from delusion and discover the truth.
Based on Dennis Lehane's unnerving bestseller, Shutter Island sees Martin Scorsese make his first foray into straight forward thriller territory since his 1991 remake of Cape Fear. Of course, without giving too much away, there's nothing too straightforward about this superior psychological chiller, the acclaimed director bringing his trademark visual and aural flair to what could well have been standard genre material.
Interestingly, the fingerprints of the undisputed master of the genre, Alfred Hitchcock, are all over Shutter Island, Scorsese clearly delighting in paying homage to the legendary director. As well as numerous knowing nods to Hitch's most famous shots, there's also a deeply ominous soundtrack made up of classical music specially picked by Scorsese's old pal Robbie Robertson that helps create an unbearably tense atmosphere reminiscent of the late director's best work.
Shutter Island is DiCaprio's fourth film with Scorsese and while the star might not be in the same league as his director's former muse Robert De Niro, he's eminently capable as the trouble detective. As might be expected, Scorsese has attracted some fine supporting players to fill out smaller roles, most notably Jackie Earle Hayley as a thoroughly creepy inmate and Patricia Clarkson in a role that's impossible to describe without giving the game away.
Hardly vintage Scorsese but a fine thriller by any other film-maker's standards, Shutter Island is an opportunity to see the director letting his hair down and wallowing in his beloved craft and influences.