• James Rutherford

'Shutter Island': A Haunting and Immersive Investigation into a Case of Inexplicable Disappearance


Movie poster for the film Shutter Island starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo

Shutter Island (2010) is a haunting and immersive psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, a federal law enforcement official circa 1954. Traveling with his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) to the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane on the titular island in Boston Harbor, Teddy investigates the mysterious disappearance of patient Rachel Solando (Emily Mortimer), a convicted child murderer who has vanished completely.


Finding the hospital's staff inexplicably difficult and uncooperative, Teddy and Chuck scour the premises for clues to Rachel's sudden departure—keying in on her psychiatrist John Cawley (Ben Kingsley) as a person of interest. Teddy is dismayed to learn that Cawley has left the island entirely, however, while he proceeds to suffer migraine headaches and repeated disturbing dreams of his deceased wife. A cryptic note left behind in Rachel's cell reading simply "The law of 4; who is 67?" becomes the linchpin for the investigation, while staffers and patients alike increasingly bewilder and agitate Teddy's fragile nerves.


Adapted by Laeta Kalogridis from Denis Lehane's best-selling novel and directed by cinematic luminary Martin Scorsese (Mean Streets, Goodfellas), Shutter Island is a hair-raising plunge into the depths of psychological despair. Cinematographer Robert Richardson imbues the film with aesthetic shades of foreboding dread, helping to deliver Ashecliffe's sinister underbelly to fore with chilling effectiveness. Now famous for its stunning and entirely unforeseeable finale, it's ultimately serves as a world class horror story—the horrors of the mind far exceeding those of physical reality.

 

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