"Shutter Island" marks Leonardo DiCaprio's fourth collaboration with director Martin Scorsese. It may also be his most intense, which says a lot when you consider that their previous three films were "Gangs of New York," "The Aviator" and "The Departed."
The movie, which opens Friday, is based on Dennis Lehane's novel and is set in 1954, when U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) investigate the disappearance of a patient at a hospital for the criminally insane located on a remote island.
With a hurricane bearing down, an uncooperative doctor (Ben Kingsley) who seems to be hiding something and a population of murderers and rapists, Shutter Island ranks high on the list of the world's worst places to visit. But Scorsese's superb and imaginative direction, along with DiCaprio's ferocious performance as the frustrated detective, is cause for film buffs to celebrate.
The Miami Herald spoke briefly with DiCaprio about the making of "Shutter Island" and his continuing relationship with Scorsese.
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"Shutter Island" is a difficult movie to write about, because so much of the story hinges on information the audience doesn't learn until the last few minutes. But it didn't seem like Scorsese went out of his way to trick viewers or try to keep them from figuring out what was going on. Instead of going for a " Sixth Sense" kind of thing, the film stays true to the experience of your character and what he's going through.
That's right. The sheer nature of the narrative was extremely complex and a kind of balancing act. Teddy has a very complicated past, and the whole movie deals with his memories, which can also be interpreted as dreams. Scorsese wanted to emphasize a layer of ambiguity with the character and the storyline. I don't think he wanted it to be a gimmicky ending or one of those popcorn reveals.
The story also takes you to an incredibly dark place that I had never seen depicted in a movie quite in this manner.
At the end of the day, this movie is really a character piece. All of the genre stuff — the Gothic horror and thriller aspects of it — sort of dissolve away as you get down to the core of the movie, which is human trauma and the ability to recover from that. Or not.
When I first heard Scorsese was going to direct "Shutter Island," I imagined it would be something like "Cape Fear" — one of his just-for-the-fun-of-it movies, a sort of top-notch thriller that would be fun to watch. But "Shutter Island" turns out to be pretty harrowing and deadly serious.
That's the great thing about working with a director like Martin Scorsese, because it's never just going to be about sticking to a particular genre. He's a true artist in every sense of the word. You do get that entertainment value, but at the end of the day I think "Shutter Island" is in line with the type of movies he does best. When you think of "King of Comedy" or "Taxi Driver," this one is also about a troubled character and exploring their darkness in a way that is sometimes uncomfortable to watch.
You've worked with an impressive roster of directors — Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Sam Mendes. How is Scorsese different?
It's hard to explain his process. There's nothing distinctive about the way Scorsese directs that is much different or far superior to other directors of his caliber. But there's an undercurrent to what he's doing that's almost intangible. It's the way he deals with his actors, the way he edits small little moments and holds them, the way he'll push in with the camera in a way that's almost undetectable. And then when you see all the pieces of the puzzle, they make a beautiful tapestry.