Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and set in the 1950s, this is the story of two federal marshals called in to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from the mysterious island prison Shutter Island. A maximum security prison for the clinically insane, Shutter Island is home to the most dangerous, deluded, and unstable prisoners in the penal system -- tended to by a cadre of doctors working to treat their illness as an illness rather than simply throwing them in a hole as we had done previously. But when one of the prisoners disappears from inside a locked room, they have no recourse but to call in the feds. Enter Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his partner (played brilliantly byMark Ruffalo).
What follows is a brilliantly constructed mystery as Teddy interviews the staff, collects clues, and begins to unravel a network of lies and conspiracy that might just reach higher than his pay grade. Unlike what early trailers suggested, this isn't some sort of supernatural thriller. It is a good old-fashioned detective story with some pretty bold twists. And while the story (based on a novel of the same name written by Dennis Lahane, author of Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone) isn't the most original, Scorsese's signature filmmaking style takes this to a new level and ultimately makes this the very best version of this story you've ever seen.
The acting here is incredible. DiCaprio and Ruffalo lead a tremendous cast, and each actor is given their moment in the sun. Ben Kingsley plays the kind head of the institution, Dr. Cawley, who may or may not be keeping very valuable information from the visiting investigators. Max von Sydow is a co-worker who seems even more sinister than Kingsley might be. Complementing the doctors is a bevy of Oscar caliber talent including Jackie Earle Haley, Emily Mortimer, and Elias Koteas as inmates; Patricia Clarkson and Ted Levine as other staff members; and Michelle Williams as DiCaprio's deceased wife. Together this cast proves to be one of the greatest ensembles in recent years, each giving their best and crafting something the Oscars definitely won't be ignoring next year.
But most powerful of all is the film's ending, a stunning, heartbreaking climax that plumbs the deep, dark depths of DiCaprio's character and offers up one of the best finales in a long while. It is not the type of ending you're used to seeing. Instead it is the type of ending we used to see. The film is brilliant, an elegantly told tale that generates real suspense, creates authentic mood and will keep you on the edge of your seat for the better part of two hours. It is not the gimmicky, twist-reliant film it might appear to be. Despite the fact that you might solve its mystery early on, you will still find yourself wrapped up in the wonderful characters, disturbing pathos, and taut pacing, all of which you've come to expect from someone like Martin Scorsese.