Shutter Island Blu-ray review

Martin Scorsese is one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, but how does he fare adapting Dennis Lehane’s gothic thriller? Glen checks out Shutter Island on Blu-ray...

Dennis Lehane can have few complaints over the quality of the cinematic adaptations of his novels. I can’t think of many authors who can boast a better run of films based on their works than his. With Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone both receiving critical acclaim and relative financial success upon their release, it was little surprise that his oeuvre was explored for another adaptation.

Shutter Island is by no means an exception to the rule. As a fan of the source I was far from disappointed with the film. In fact, it exceeded my high expectations.

Set in 1954, Shutter Island focuses on the efforts of US Marshals Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) as they look to get to the bottom of the mysterious disappearance of a female patient from Ashecliff, a hospital for the criminally insane which is housed on the titular island.

The marshals soon find out that things don’t quite add up as their investigation seems to be compromised by the hospital’s staff and patients at every turn. When a ferocious storm prevents the marshals from leaving the island, they’re as trapped as the patients themselves.

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Haunted by surreal dreams that feature the death of his wife and children and his experiences in WWII, Daniels soon finds his sanity is being questioned.

The novel was adapted by screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis and the screenplay ended up in the hands of Martin Scorsese, who loved it so much he pressed ahead with its production. Scorsese clearly understood the source material and perfectly put across the varying degrees of complexity for each and every character in the film, as well as created a perfect mood through the look and feel of the film through brilliant set design, camera work and soundtrack.

Scorsese gets the most out an immensely talented cast. In addition to quality performances from DiCaprio and Ruffalo in the leads, Sir Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow excel in their roles as doctors with vastly differing approaches to medicine. Jackie Earle Hayley leaves an impression in one of the film’s pivotal scenes as the patient George Noyce. The scene is framed beautifully, exploiting an interesting narrative device to add tension.

It’s perhaps not the most original film that Scorsese has made, but it has been made with a high level of skill that is typical of the director’s output. More homage than pastiche, Scorsese tips his hat to many great directors throughout the film, but despite this, it has its own look and feel and evokes the mood and feeling required to give the source material the adaptation it deserved.

The complaint about poor editing that flew around when the film hit cinemas is, frankly, laughable. Anyone who thinks that a filmmaker as experienced and as skilled as Martin Scorsese is making mistakes, and such scenes are anything other than devices to add to the mood of the piece are missing the point spectacularly, and aren’t appreciating the film for achieving exactly what it set out to accomplish.

If you have seen the film and were unsure of it on first viewing, I would strongly suggest watching it again. There’s so much attention to detail in the film that practically every scene contains a give away to the film’s finale, and it’s only on multiple viewings that the attention to detail can be fully appreciated. I’ve seen the film about four times now, and read the book a few times prior to its release, and I’m still picking up on details that weren’t apparent on first viewing and, no doubt, I still will on subsequent viewings in the future.

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The Disc

Whilst there’s a shortage of extras here, the sound and picture quality are excellent. I can’t think of many titles in my collection, or that I have reviewed, that are of this standard. The picture is close to flawless, and really brings out the level of the detail that fills each and every frame of the film. This really is demo quality stuff.

To complement the quality of the picture there’s the excellent DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio track that adds to the air of eeriness and confusion. From the steadily increasing horn blasts of the opening scene to the heavy storm there are plenty of standout moments to give the best of setups a good workout.

Even throughout some of the more dramatic scenes, dialogue is always the priority, which is refreshing, as an increasing number of discs seem to have forgotten just how important dialogue is for the vast majority of films, so I was pleased not to have to reach for the controls to turn subtitles on at any point during the film.

The two documentaries that feature are both presented in HD and are heavy on the spoilers, so avoid at all costs if you haven’t seen the film. A notice flashes up before each one to this effect, so it shouldn’t be a problem, though it’s worth reiterating.

Behind The Shutters focuses on the making of the film, with the majority of the main cast providing their thoughts on the process and the effort put in to making the film stand up to multiple viewings with actors essentially fulfilling three roles in each scene.

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The second feature is entitled In The Lighthouse and explores psychological practices from the time the film was set and, again, with contributions from those involved with the film, including Dr. James Gilligan, who worked in a similar institution to that seen in the film and acted as a consultant. It’s the better of the two documentaries, although both are excellent.

The only complaint here is the lack of other extras, although the high quality of the film and the excellent transfer more than makes up for it. It’s a release that is screaming out for a double dip at some point in the future and it’s one of the few occasions that I wouldn’t begrudge paying for the film again.

Hopefully, if it is revisited, a commentary track by Scorsese will be included, as this is a film that really would benefit from one.

Shutter Island really is a fantastic film that’s easily amongst the year’s best for me, and the Blu-ray is a must-buy for the quality of the presentation. I really couldn’t recommend this highly enough.


5 stars

Shutter Island is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.

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3 out of 5