Shutter Island


Paramount Pictures




Plot Summary: Two U.S. Marshall's travel to an island hospital for the criminally insane to solve the mystery of a missing patient.


Reason for the Rating: Disturbing violent content, language and some nudity.


Shutter Island is a weather-beaten, rocky island off the coast of Massachusetts that houses Ashcliffe Hospital for the criminally insane. There is only one ferry that comes in and out of its pier, and this leaves as quickly as it can each day. Why? Because Shutter Island is just an eerie and creepy place.


It’s 1954, and Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a US Marshall who has been summoned, along with his partner, Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), to Shutter Island. They are to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Saldano (Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson) a woman who murdered her three young children, and has seemingly vanished through the walls. How could a barefooted woman traverse this island’s hazardous terrain? How could she just disappear?


From the moment they arrive, Teddy is suspicious of Ashcliffe and what goes on there. He's heard rumors, and one firsthand account, of the miserable treatment patients receive there. He’s heard the whispers about possible human experimentation. He determines he will not leave the island until he has uncovered the secrets being held there.


Teddy also has another reason for staying. Several years before, his wife was killed in an apartment fire. The man who set the fire is housed on Shutter Island, in Ward C, where the most dangerous criminals are kept. Teddy has come to find this man and, well, he hasn't decided what he'll do at that time.


Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese, is just as eerie as the island itself. The story itself seems simple enough, but the layers that are added with each passing scene keep Teddy, and the audience, from seeing things clearly. Scorsese uses every element of filmmaking to his advantage: lighting, cinematography, score, and excellent screenwriting to weave this web of mystery and carry the audience along on this wild and intense hurricane of a story.


Told from Teddy's viewpoint, Shutter Island is a movie of details that are laid down piece by piece like a giant jigsaw puzzle. From Teddy's past as a soldier who assisted in freeing prisoners at Dachau, to the conversation he has with prisoner George Noyce (Jackie Earle Haley), to his nightmares, the story is in the details. And each detail raises new questions to this seemingly impossible mystery. How did Rachel escape this Civil War era fortress? What do Teddy's flashbacks mean? Is Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) to be trusted? Can Teddy, himself, be trusted?


Oh, this is a good movie. One that will leave you pondering the possibilities and implications of its themes. And one that you will certainly remember.


While not appropriate for children, Shutter Island isn't as scary as the trailers lead you to believe. Intense, yes; scary, no. It's a rare kind of movie that will keep you guessing and still surprise you at the end. For older teens and parents who are fans of suspense and mystery.


Let’s Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:


• Teddy was moved by the fact that Dr. Cawley "came after" him. How have you seen Christ "come after" you? Explain.


• Do you think Teddy made a conscious decision at the end, or had he truly reverted back to his delusion? Explain your theory.


• Would you rather "live as a monster, or die a good man?" Explain what you think that means.




Note: All movie-related graphics in this column are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective movie studios. 

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