Let me make it clear that I'm a big, fat, salivating fan and admirer of Martin Scorsese, the director who has given the world many classics such as The King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Casino, The Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun, Mean Streets, The Departed, and the current Shutter Island. I have no personal axe to grind against Marty and his towering talents. His place in cinematic history is untouchable.
That said, I didn't much like Shutter Island.
There are certain cinematic tropes that I have grown to despise. Each year, these rotten, tired devices from lazy minds annoy me a little bit more. Probably because each year I'm living longer with them and they're (unfairly) going to outlive me.
One of my pet cinematic hates is dream sequences. I don't mind material that is dream-like, but I want to kick a skull when a scene is building to a head and suddenly, viola!, a character snaps awake or sits up in their bed looking frazzled and fried. We then know that we've been watching the character's dream. We've been conned.
Well, I say Fuck your stupid dream sequences, they suck elephant dick! The very idea of a dream sequence is sucky to me. Not only does it permit the filmmaker to write checks they can't cash, but it gives marketers an opportunity to shove irrelevant scenes into a trailer that really have nothing to do with the meat of the movie they're selling. It makes for sloppy writing, too, because writers chuck stuff into the mix that they couldn't logically include in the central narrative. That's what bothers me most. Like I said, I'm all for dream-like, bizarre, crazy imagery, but why not come up with an original story that can logically incorporate this imagery. Or sell us a world where grotesque, terrifying events are part of the furniture. If it can't be logically incorporated into the world of your script, perhaps IT DOESN'T BELONG IN THE FUCKING MOVIE.
I guess I was never cut out for Shutter Island, or stories of its ilk; it's masturbation material for dream sequence lovers everywhere, and if you're one of those, you'll spill a gallon of spunk beating off to what Scorsese does with uncommon relish here. If you haven't seen the movie yet, stop reading right now because I'm going to allude to content that could be deemed spoiler-ish.
Film opens with Leonardo Di Caprio and Mark Ruffalo on a boat on a misty bay. Very picturesque. Moody. Dream-like. Shutter Island, a prison for loonies, emerges from the soup. Di Caprio and his partner have arrived to investigate the disappearance of a prisoner. We know something strange is afoot because everybody on the island is either too nice or too evasive. The body of the movie involves the investigation. Although the premise is not lacking for drama, no muscle is exercised resisting a plethora of dream sequences and dreams within dreams within dreams. Di Caprio snaps awake often, bolts upright, and is left in a sweat by a shitload of dream sequences before the film hits its lengthy run time.
In fairness, Di Caprio's dreams and mental wanderings have much to do with the film's "twist", but I didn't care for it one bit. Nothing felt particularly original or compelling, either. I'd seen it all before without dreams. What this movie provoked in me was a strong desire to see a different movie.
Not surprisingly, the film's technical accomplishments are monumental, but so they should be when you're spending close to a hundred million dollars. The performances are strong, the island setting is potent with mood and texture, and the music, a compilation of many movie scores assembled with the assistance of Robbie Robertson, is a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, the film made me yearn for a story in which characters face assorted demons in a state of wakefulness. In dream sequences, you can throw in any old crap and justify its existence. It is the very ease in which this can be done that bothers me most. When a character snaps out of a dream, I never believe that the dream was so vivid it remained with them. For the most part, dreams are incoherent and mostly forgotten after we've emerged from them. I simply don't buy the whole idea. Hollywood's representation of dream states has us much credibility as how it depicts what one sees through a pair of binoculars.
Although I liked Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street, I fancied the 'Elm Street' part far more than the 'Nightmare'. I liked the opening scene where Freddy sharpens his tools and gets ready to take revenge. When I learned that he'd do it in dreams, my hopes scattered like dried leaves, and I was forced to suffer one incoherent set piece after another. I wanted to see the real Freddy butchering the real parents who burned him. I didn't believe a moment of him doing it in dreams. I guess I prefer waking nightmares.
Shutter Island's Leonardo Di Caprio is living a nightmare, but it's not a nightmare that excited me.
Just a personal opinion based on my own likes, dislikes, and personal preferences, of course. But isn't one's reaction to every movie just that?