Thursday, 18 March 2010

If you like films... should go see Shutter Island. I mean if you properly like films, as in you appreciate strong performances, well written dialogue, and perfectly constructed scenes, because if you do you will probably enjoy it as much as I did. If you don't then you'll more than likely have the reaction a lot of critics have had and that a lot of the people sitting around us in the cinema seemed to have - 'well I saw that coming'.

The ending is obvious, and I'm speaking as someone who very rarely guesses the endings of films. I won't go into it here, but it is signposted very early on, and there's a line from Ben Kingsley in his first scene that essentially tells you what's happening. But to be honest it's signposted in the trailer too and really anyone who has any knowledge of the genre knows what happens to people who investigate spooky insane asylums. The point is it doesn't matter.

Essentially the film plays out as a series of lengthy dialogue scenes between DiCaprio and one or two other actors, interspersed with expertly crafted dream sequences and hallucinations. You could take any of these scenes on their own as masterclasses in writing, performance, direction, and cinematography - in fact all aspects of the film are individually spot on. Together they form a coherent and interesting character study with a B-movie plot as it's spine. There is so much good stuff in these scenes that I found it a joy to watch throughout, and found myself not really caring what happened next in terms of the story, just that I wanted to see how it was done. Maybe that's a bad thing, maybe that's a case of style over plotting, but I did really enjoy it and found that the real surprises weren't in the plot but instead were in how each scene would be handled and which awesome actor would turn up this time.

It's good to see a genre film that has been produced to such a high standard and a high artistic standard at that. And it's good to see a director who after such a long career is still willing to experiment and take risks. So I would suggest ignoring the people who denounce it as derivative or obvious - there's a lot of great stuff here and I loved it.

Although while I'm on the subject it's worth mentioning a similar film, Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor, which is probably the best asylum-based film in my opinion and has some equally brilliant artistic touches as well as being pretty scary. I recommend checking that one out too if you haven't seen it.

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