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It's not bad, but as Scorsese, America's greatest living filmmaker and film history buff should know, even Hitchcock came up short on occasion.
Shutter Island is popcorn entertainment polished to an unusually high sheen. Yes, you could argue the movie is simply a mood piece. But what a mood.
"Shutter Island" is not from the Scorsese who stands astride film like a colossus; instead, it's a giddy, gory gift from the Scorsese who sits beside us in the theater, elbowing us at the good bits and taking in the sinister spectacle up on screen.
New York Times:
Mr. Scorsese's camera sense effectively fills every scene with creepiness, but sustained, gripping suspense seems beyond his grasp.
New York Magazine/Vulture:
Shutter Island is a long slog. The sad thing is that Scorsese could have connected emotionally with Lehane's narrative.
Wall Street Journal:
Not since Raging Bull has Mr. Scorsese so brazenly married brutality to beauty. Not since Kundun has one of his films felt so aspirational.
A luridly effective thrill ride of a movie that leaves no old-dark-house stone unturned, including a host of rats, a series of flashbacks involving doomed children, and water, water everywhere.
Using every tool at his disposal, Scorsese honors Lehane's pulp intensity by amplifying the story to the fevered Grand Guignol of a Park Chan-wook movie, or Sam Fuller's asylum classic Shock Corridor.
It may not have any of the technological bells and whistles of the latest 3-D offerings, but no movie in recent memory immerses the audience so deeply in its look and feel as the old-fashioned, two-dimensional Shutter Island.
This is a long, heavy film, in which Scorsese's aerobic moviemaking turns mannered and uncharacteristically passive.
J. R. Jones,
What Scorsese brings to the table, having created more than his share of rascally villains, is a renewed sense of horror and despair at the power of evil.
Shutter Island is hysterical, in the clinical and cinematic senses, followed by plodding, just when a potboiling contraption cannot afford to be.
Christian Science Monitor:
It comes on strong, but in its bloody heart of hearts it's no more resonant than one of those old Vincent Price-Edgar Allan Poe contraptions - and less entertaining, too.
Dallas Morning News:
This is among Scorsese's many gifts: Even when he's not crafting a masterpiece, he reminds you that the movies possess visceral and uncanny powers.
What is real? What is delusion? What is montrous? What is decent? Shutter Island may not shatter the heart but these are gnawing achievements for a movie about madness and paranoia.
A movie that keeps you guessing to the end and then -- miraculously -- makes the guessing pay off.
If a film is going to pile on the doom and foreboding this thickly, the payoff better be worth the hard road viewers have to slog.
Martin Scorsese's latest is a puff of smoke, the type of classic Hollywood mystery hailed as art when done by auteurs and dismissed as ham when done by anyone less esteemed.
Los Angeles Times:
In Shutter Island, director Martin Scorsese has created a divinely dark and devious brain tease of a movie in the best noir tradition.
San Jose Mercury News:
Showing an explosive temper and a wounded psyche, DiCaprio eerily channels the great Richard Widmark, a film noir giant, as Teddy, a shaky World War II veteran still at war with his memories.
Umberto Eco wrote, "Two cliches make us laugh but a hundred cliches move us, because we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, celebrating a reunion." Shutter Island is that reunion, and that shrine.
It's as startling a change of pace for this director as The Shining was for Stanley Kubrick, and often just as unnerving.
New York Post:
An exquisitely crafted potboiler offering up two and a quarter hours of thrills, chills and Leonardo DiCaprio freaking out in a nuthouse during a hurricane.
New York Observer:
How could this many talented people get so utterly, confoundingly messed up? How could a director considered such an icon make so much money and demonstrate so little control?
The strength of the film, like the book, is that it never allows the viewer to feel comfortable with what he is watching.
The film's primary effect is on the senses. Everything is brought together into a disturbing foreshadow of dreadful secrets.
Scorsese is pushing, I guess, for something that combines a '40s horror-thriller with a contemporary psychological tragedy. What he ends up with is more like a Hardy Boys mystery directed by David Lynch.
San Francisco Chronicle:
If Martin Scorsese weren't aware of himself as a great filmmaker, he could never have made a movie as bad as Shutter Island.
The movie is inert, despite the fact that it bombards us with lurid imagery and high-intensity stimuli: frozen Dachau victims, dying Nazis, beautiful child murderesses, abandoned graveyards besieged by hurricanes.
Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Its overripe atmospherics put it in that rare class of failures that can only be made by talented people falling on their face while reaching for the moon.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
This quasi-horror film has the great director's usual craftsmanship and a stellar cast, but ultimately it's an infuriating trick that makes its most provocative ideas disappear.
As senseless, perverse and unwieldy as it undoubtedly is, Shutter Island might be Scorsese's most enjoyable film in a decade.
Despite its flaws, Shutter Island is worth seeing for the palpably nightmarish and gothic world conceived by Scorsese.
Expert, screw-turning narrative filmmaking put at the service of old-dark-madhouse claptrap.
Since more attention has gone into filigreeing details into each scene than worrying about the way they'll fit together, the rattletrap engages you moment-to-moment, even as the overall pacing stops and lurches alarmingly.
As Shutter Island proceeds -- mostly as a series of speeches and set pieces -- what is meant to be mysterious and unsettling becomes just plain incomprehensible.