Shutter Island is a film which is impossible to discuss without going into full detail so the first thing that needs stating is that there are spoilers herein; forewarned is forearmed. It is a film with a massive twist and it hinges upon it, for better or worse the twist colors your outlook on the entire film. In this case sadly it was for worse.
The last half hour of the film revels in unraveling the delusional existence of our protagonist and does so to such painstaking, pace-killing means that it seems to be patting itself on the back and saying “Oh, the cleverness of me.” One cannot argue it is cleverly done and the loose ends do end up being reconnected with what the reality of the situation is but the problem remains do you like the movie more after the twist or come to dislike it. That is one of the pitfalls of twists.
When such a brilliantly intricate MacGuffin has been constructed and we are later told it’s false and our hero is a victim and the villains are heroes it’s a hard pill to swallow. The film that had been unfolding was beautifully done and even if the pace was starting to suffer I was committed to that story, and though the twist could be seen coming a mile away it still hurt the film terribly when it happened and you wish it hadn’t. It seems like a filmmaker the caliber of Scorsese wouldn’t need to fall into one of the new Hollywood mantras which is “We have to outsmart the audience.” Scorcese was the very man who told a very straight forward story a few years ago and won an Oscar which he earned hands down in every scene of the film, save for the last one (that rat was just too much).
So what do you come away with from this film? You get one of DiCaprio’s finest performances in quite some time but the overall effect of the film is diminished. Not only do we discover the reality we were asked to believe was false but then our hero still is unable to maintain his grip on reality after a new breakthrough, it’s almost like you wasted your time twice.
Twists can either being mind-blowing or a total letdown and ultimately a reversal of fortune and this was the latter. Great cinematography and a haunting and effective score are all for naught. Even without twists the dream sequences were too many and too long. The film was flawed but enjoyable but the twist rendered it bad and wasteful.