“Shutter” along with Scorsese’s latest

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When Martin Scorsese makes a movie, it’s usually worth watching– especially if Leonardo DiCaprio is in it (think: “Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator” and “The Departed”). The latest Scorsese/DiCaprio flick, “Shutter Island,” is an interesting breed: It’s a book adaptation. But the story’s original author, Dennis Lehane, is no stranger to books-turned-movies; the novelist also penned “Mystic River” and “Gone, Baby, Gone,” both Hollywood darlings in their own right. But what does this all mean? It means, Lehane plus Scorsese/DiCaprio equals box office gold. Clearly.

DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a U.S. marshal paired up with a new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), and en route via ferry in the mid-1950′s to Shutter Island, Massachusetts in the film’s opening scene. The island is small and remote, surrounded by rough terrain, and it’s home to a hospital for the criminally insane; the marshals are being sent there to investigate the disappearance of patient Rachel Solando. They’re greeted by Deputy Warden McPherson (John Carroll Lynch) and a slew of his police team when they arrive on the island, forced to surrender their firearms and given the lay of the land. The hospital grounds are picturesque with meticulously manicured lawns and beautiful old buildings, but Daniels can see right away that the patients are disturbed. He and Aule are escorted to meet the hospital’s head psychiatrist, Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), who describes Solando’s crime and the details of her improbable escape from a locked cell.

Daniels and Aule begin their investigation, lasting several days through treacherous, hurricane-like weather. As events begin to unravel, Daniels reveals his real motive for taking on the case– to avenge the death of his wife (Michelle Williams), whose murderer may be on Shutter Island. Aule is loyal and willing to help Daniels, who he refers to as “boss,” however he can. But the most interesting relationship in the movie is between Daniels and Cawley; the doctor claims he uses respect and understanding to best treat his patients, but Daniels suspects torture and lobotomies are being conducted in secret.

The tension between DiCaprio and Kingsley, coupled with the gorgeous cinematography and shots of the landscape, are what make “Shutter Island” so thrilling. Both actors have proven themselves with larger than life roles and multiple Academy Award nominations: DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in 2004′s “The Aviator,” and Kingsley even scoring an Oscar win for the title role in 1982′s “Ghandi.” Their relationship here as cop and doctor becomes even more complex as “Shutter Island” unfolds.┬áRuffalo unsurprisingly plays a worthy sidekick; his under-the-radar acting career pops up every now and then with a strong portrayal to remind you exactly who he is. And Williams, although playing a deceased character who only appears in flashbacks throughout the film, is convincing as DiCaprio’s lost love, with an authentic Boston accent to boot. Patricia Clarkson (“Six Feet Under,” “Good Night, and Good Luck”) and Jackie Earle Haley (“The Bad News Bears,” “Little Children”) both play vital, half-crazed patients in the movie; although they each only appear in one scene, their characters are central to solving the story’s mystery.

But what really makes “Shutter Island” work in the end is the marriage of a solid tale and expert directing. Lehane’s story is gripping, and plot twists will keep moviegoers guessing up until the very end. Scorsese is a film genius, and his ability to transform a book to the big screen is a credit he deserves alone– regardless of Lehane’s past Hollywood successes. Together, writer and director have created a riveting movie, not so much scary as it is tense and perplexing.

So yes, this may indeed be a box office smash (in its first weekend, it earned $41 million), but “Shutter Island” is a film worth seeing regardless. And you just may leave the theater thinking you’d like to read that book.

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