“Rats! Rain! Lightning! Lunatics! Mausoleums! Migraines! Creepy German scientists! Nobody could accuse Martin Scorsese, in Shutter Island, of underplaying his hand,” writes The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane.
“The nominal task confronting [Scorsese] and his screenwriter, Laeta Kalogridis, is to take Dennis Lehane‘s novel of the same name and render it fit for the screen. But he has a deeper duty — to pillage all the B movies he has ever seen (including some that were forgotten by their own directors), and to enshrine the fixations and flourishes of style on which they relied.
“In a celebrated riff on Casablanca, Umberto Eco wrote, ‘Two clich√©s make us laugh but a hundred cliches move us, because we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, celebrating a reunion.’ Shutter Island is that reunion, and that shrine
“The final twist is a fizzle; not because we see it coming (though we do) but because Scorsese, with a great weight of exposition dumped in his lap, struggles to keep it snappy. He even has a character stand beside a whiteboard and point out written clues. It’s like having I Walked with a Zombie interrupted by Sesame Street.
“When it comes to ripe old frighteners — or to any other overheated genre — Scorsese is the most ardent of proselytizers, so much so that I would prefer to hear him enthuse about Hammer Horror films, say, than to watch a Hammer Horror film. Shutter Island, with its remote lighthouse and its spiral staircase, is a fleshing out of these scholarly crushes.
“That is why we get the patient with the Frankenstein stitches across his facial scar, and the iron-hearted prison warden (Ted Levine) who, during his only conversation with Teddy, informs him that ‘God loves violence.’ These are not quite jokes, but nor are they saddled with dramatic meaning; they are light, rhetorical gestures toward the dark.
“No one is denying the energy and the dread that stalked the best B movies of the past, but, when the best director of the present revives such monsters, how can he hope to do better than a B-plus?”