Monday, March 08, 2010

Shutter Island: Good but Predictable

In the space of Noir movies, this movie is like a wannabe. Like a shy new entrant trying to be more Noir than what is necessary. This is certainly a tense, taught thriller from Scorsese and I was glad I saw this movie. But there were several scenes that needlessly hinted as to what the ending might be. Story tellers, who try to blind-side the audience at the end, try to drive the audience in one particular (wrong) direction and at the same time leave certain dialogs and scenes subject to multiple interpretations at the end of the movie. The key is to neither overdo the decoy part nor make obvious the scenes that have multiple-interpretations aspects to it. Sixth Sense succeeded in hiding the scenes that could be interpreted either way more vigilantly than it hid the ending. This movie misses exactly that aspect.

In fact, there was a scene here that reminded me of another good movie - Mullholland Drive - that bared and flaunted a specific multiple-interpretation scene to needlessly and abruptly drop a hint rather in the middle of the movie. When you use a scene as a hint dropper and not a narrative driver, you give away the ending. (This is the scene where this aspiring actress meets a cowboy in a boxing ring). The movie was significantly less interesting after that point. That scene was disconnected, random and unreal. The entire movie was like that. But that scene was a little bit more of all that than it needed to be.

In Shutter Island, Scorsese starts by working with a consistent and needless penchant to show too many images flashing through DiCaprio's mind. On top of it he experiments with nested dream sequences that probably work better as a decoy in a novel than in a movie. He might as well put a caption saying "I am going to seed something now". And then finally in a scene where DiCaprio is found alone talking to a severely injured and disfigured mental patient, Scorsese gives away the ending. This movie simply fails to supress too many scenes/events/dialogs and is unable to push it to the background. They just float and strut about winking at the audience.

Therein lies the key to good Noir. Directors who make great movies in this genre resist the urge to use overly clever dialogs during moments that has to both be consistent with the illusion being created but at the same time play the role of a ticking bomb that will explode with multiple interpretations later on. Scorsese has been unable to resist the urge and makes the scene needlessly out of synch with the flow of the movie. After this give-away scene, the movie becomes a little bit of a disappointing journey towards the obvious. The pay load in the end is not a satisfying single moment that reveals everything and connects all the loose ends in a single stroke. The payload comes in several installments, which go about painfully describing 'how it happened' in slow detail. Once again, this movie is for a big part a gripping tale. Definitely recommend a watch. But more was expected from Scorsese (or whoever was responsible for the adapted screenplay).

6 comments:

Yuli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yuli said...

Hi, about your blog - please contact me on my Email (yulids@gmail.com), couldn't find yours.

don't publish this comment...

Regards,
Yuli

Anonymous said...

It is Noir, like our tea kadai Nair. Not Noire as in Po da Myire.

JettyBoy

Hawkeye said...

thanks jetty boy. I got auto corrected to Noire and so thought that was correct!

Anonymous said...

Waiting for you to comment on the Saga of paramahamsa "Forever-happy" and the actress who is an "entertainer"......

Gaurav said...

You missed out their biggest folly. All the promos, even from before the release, have a teaser line about how "you will be blown away by the unexpected twist in Shutter Island". As soon as you know there is a twist, it can only be one possible thing.

Even before that give-away scene, as soon as the basic plot was laid out, my wife said to me "xxxx(the twist" and I said yeah, I was thinking the same thing.

The REAL mindblowing twist would have been to, well, without giving too much away, end with a further counter-twist, basically proving DiCaprio's character right.

That said, I agree, watchable movie. Won't stand out as memorable years later, but worth it. And good on Scorsese for being able to competently execute something so different from his comfort zone. And I loved the final line that Dicaprio has in the movie. It still leaves us with a question, no matter how minor.