Friday, June 25, 2010
Friday Night at the Movies Week 25 - Shutter Island
In film, the twist ending is a tough wire to walk. There is a balance at play, and to truly make it work, on must be careful no to sway too far in either direction. Place too many clues, and the average viewer can spot the ending a mile away (The Village comes to mind.) Leave too few, and the anarchic masses will cry foul. Hit just the right combination of the two, and viewers might line up for a repeat viewing, bearing signs calling you a genius.
In a novel, that twist is even harder to pull off. Readers, not subjected to the director and editors pace, can obsess over pages and details for as long as they wish. At the cinema, try to make the projectionist pause the film or load the previous reel, and you'll most likely get your assed bounced faster than a gummi bear. At the beach, flipping back and reviewing requires only a few muscles, most likely strengthened during other activities.
So I'd like to think the novelist has a tougher job on this one. But what about the poor sap who has to adapt the twist novel into a "shocking" film?
Vary rarely do I watch the movie before I've read the book. If it's a film in interested in watching, my first stop is the bookstore, not the box office. Many of my friends share this trait, which oddly enough, is the reason I'm viewing Shutter Island on DVD, and not at the multiplex.
I read the book a few years ago, after reading/watching Mystic River. I admired the novel, quickly read every other Dennis Lehane offering, and soon learned that THE GREATEST LIVING DIRECTOR, otherwise know to us mortals as Martin Scorcese, would be directing the adaptation, reread the book. The book was masterful when revealing the twist, which I will not name here. I knew it was coming the second time around, (didn't pick up on it at all the first time), and loved the book just the same.
But the movie could be different. Screenwriters change stuff around all the time, and since I'd never heard of Laeta Kalogridis, I was skeptical.
It's 1954, and up-and-coming U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Boston's Shutter Island Ashecliffe Hospital. He's been pushing for an assignment on the island for personal reasons, but before long he wonders whether he hasn't been brought there as part of a twisted plot by hospital doctors whose radical treatments range from unethical to illegal to downright sinister. Teddy's shrewd investigating skills soon provide a promising lead, but the hospital refuses him access to records he suspects would break the case wide open. As a hurricane cuts off communication with the mainland, more dangerous criminals "escape" in the confusion, and the puzzling, improbable clues multiply, Teddy begins to doubt everything - his memory, his partner, even his own sanity. Written by alfiehitchie
I should have had more confidence. Everything about the movie was awesome, even by Scorcese standards. The man is an artist, and from a visual standpoint, this might be one of my favorites of his. It was nothing short of beautiful, with menacing shadows, eye-popping colors, and hallucination/dream sequences that were mesmerizing. It had the look and feel of a Hitchcock film, and it came as no surprise that Scorcese showed his cast Vertigo, as well as Out of the Past. And while the film definately felt "period," it utilized modern special effects effectively.
The performances are also to be applauded. I've come to expect good things from DiCaprio, and he delivered. His accent, as it was in The Departed, was a bit weak, but his decent into madness was captivating; the perfect mixture of Tough Guy Bravado and Wounded Haunted Soldier. He was matched with great turns from the always reliable, and creepy when they need to be, Ben Kingsley and Max von
Sydow as mysterious doctors. Mark Ruffalo was spot on as DiCaprio's partner, and Ted Levine was memorable in his few scenes as the Warden. And I'm quite sure that Jackie Earl Haley is the go-to guy when it comes to creeps.
Overall, it kills me that this film didn't get better reviews. It deserved, at the least, a special edition DVD release. I adored it, and it's official:
Dennis Lahane is the luckiest author when it comes to adaptations!
Three movies, all great.