Insanity of Shutter proves genius

There was once a time in Hollywood when the title credits would roll and the combination of a Paramount Pictures logo and the gloomy sound of a horn section meant one thing: an Alfred Hitchcock feature with Bernard Herrmann at the helm of film score duties. Like Hitchcock before him, Martin Scorsese starts “Shutter Island” with a pronounced level of tension.

Dismay pervades the opening scenes leading the audience to Shutter Island, a virtual Alcatraz for mental patients. A storm rolls in as U.S. Marshals, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), arrive to the island by ferryboat. The two G-men couldn’t have picked a more menacing looking place to investigate a missing person case. The island is an old Civil War fortress 11 miles outside Boston Harbor. The prison locks inmates in with tall, electrified walls. Rough terrain and jagged cliffs, with straight drop-offs of a few hundred feet, sprawl outside the institution’s walls. Survival is not a likely outcome for an escapee.

The film, based on the Dennis Lehane novel of the same name, has a simple plot: The year is 1954 and a child murderer (Emily Mortimer) is missing from the prison. Daniels and Aule are on the case to turn over stones until she is found.

With a storm ravaging the island, the walls close in around the two fedora-wear ing marshals. Daniels and Aule work alongside the prison’s medical director, Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and his associate Dr. Naehring (Max Von Sydow), both of whom share a similar, curious disinterest in aiding the marshals in finding the woman. The doctors are eerily skeptical.

The story is told through the eyes of Daniels. Daniels is a wounded character. He seems to be the hero of the film, but we discover the varying colors of his past through flashbacks, which show he is a man of violence. In addition to migraines, Daniels suffers from a cavalcade of nightmares that rank as some of the most precise and haunting imitations of bad dreams in film. These hal-lucinations occur frequently, however they do not muddy the film’s exposition.

Both of the veteran actors are reliably consistent throughout the picture. DiCaprio continues to mature as a principal-leading man, often times conducting the flow of a scene with relative ease. Scorsese is a devoted scholar of film and borrows heavily from great filmmakers before him.

There isn’t a moment in the picture where he isn’t in total control of what is unfolding on screen. Cinematographer Robert Richardson engrosses the audience with an impressive visual exodus that leads them into a grim world of insanity. Reactions from the audience in both viewings of the film have ranged from slightly displeased to silent. This is a film that, over time, will warrant repeated viewings in order to fully appreciate the artistry involved.

Grade: A

Story by Kyle Sebree