Half-Moon Reviews: Shutter Island (2010) & Blackout (2007/8)

Martin Scorsese

Leonardo DiCaprio - Teddy Daniels
Mark Ruffalo - Chuck Aule
Ben Kingsley - Dr. John Cawley
Michelle Williams - Dolores
Max Von Sydow - Dr. Jeremiah Naehring
Emily Mortimer - Rachel Solando #1
Patricia Clarkson - Rachel Solando #2
Ted Levine - Warden
Jackie Earle Haley - George Nove
Elisa Koteas - Andrew Laeddis

Genre - Thriller/Psychological/Mystery

Running Time
- 138 Minutes

In 1954 during the Cold War, two U.S. Marshalls - Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) - arrive on a secluded island via ferry that inhabits a creepy asylum for the criminally insane. The asylum's main doctor (Ben Kingsley) informs them that a female patient (Emily Mortimer) has gone missing and needs to be caught since she's highly dangerous and delusional. As the two Marshalls stay on the island to find this missing patient, secrets begin to unravel about the asylum and themselves.

SHUTTER ISLAND is one of the legendary Martin Scorsese's rare thrillers. While it's release date was oddly moved from December to February [which stopped it from being considered for the Academy Awards], the film was still well-received critically and commercially. Scorsese directs a tense, atmospheric thriller that reminds me of something that Alfred Hitchcock would have directed during his career [especially with the use of lighthouses and landscapes that bring out a brooding feeling], exhibiting a ton of mood that will suck in the audience. You definitely feel the mystique and the menace that the film creates, as well as some nice tense and suspenseful scenes that keep you engaged. I loved the use of saturated colors during the dream sequences, resembling Technicolor.

The acting is wonderful, especially by Leonardo DiCaprio who gives a mature, strong performance as a man suffering from personal demons he may, or may not, be aware of. He gives the role of Teddy so much depth and emotion, that you're captivated by him. The rest of the A-list cast, such as Mark Ruffalo [who's really great here], Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, and so on are just as awesome. But it's Leo's show all the way here, giving the story layers it probably didn't have on paper.

Speaking of the script, it's adapted from Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel of the same name [he also wrote MYSTIC RIVER and GONE BABY GONE - two fantastic film adaptations in their own right]. While it's strong and well-written, it's emphasis on the big final twist brings it down. It's way too predictable, which takes away some of the effectiveness of the storytelling had the twist not been too obvious. It also highlights obvious plot holes and convoluted subplots that make it somewhat difficult to believe this twist could even exist. The dialogue and the way the story is told is good. But it could have been better if the mystery was stronger.

SHUTTER ISLAND won't be a classic Martin Scorsese film like TAXI DRIVER or RAGING BULL, but still a thrilling genre film by one of the masters.

3.5 Howls Outta 4


Rigoberto Casteneda

Amber Tamblyn - Claudia
Aidan Gillen - Karl
Armie Hammer - Tommy
Katie Stuart - Francesca

Genre - Thriller/Drama

Running Time - 85 Minutes

During a citywide blackout, three strangers are trapped inside an elevator. Claudia (Amber Tamblyn) is in a rush to return to the hospital, where her dying grandmother was admitted hours earlier after getting hit by a car. Tommy (Armie Hammer) is sort of a heroic punk who wants to save his girlfriend Francesca (Katie Stuart) from her abusive father, and planned on eloping with her. Karl (Aidan Gillen) is a widowed doctor who is in desperate need to get to his apartment to get rid of any evidence of some dark secrets he left in his apartment before his daughter returns. As the three struggle to find a way out to meet their goals, they soon learn that one of them is a serial killer. So now, the two innocent parties must not escape the elevator, but a killer as well.

BLACKOUT is a film that I didn't expect too much from, to be honest. Surprisingly, it's not as bad as I had expected it to be. It may sound like that M. Night Shyamalan produced DEVIL, but BLACKOUT was released two years before that film.

The best part about BLACKOUT is the acting. While all three actors are pretty much in typecast roles, they fit the roles and do them justice. Amber Tamblyn is an underrated actress and she does fine as the shy and introverted Claudia. Aiden Gillen is pretty much a jerk as Karl, and Armie Hammer is admirable as Tommy. All three have good chemistry with each other and carry the film with their strong performances.

Director Rigoberto Castaneda is pretty talented behind the camera. He creates a claustrophobic experience within the elevator, as well as creating some decently tense scenes where the characters attempt to escape the elevator. I also thought the structure of how the narrative was visualized was interesting. The editing was good and he doesn't shy away from gore when we do see it. I thought it was a nice job and would like to see another film by Castaneda.

However, the narrative is a very mixed bag. The elevator moments are fine, but we have to deal with a ton of flashbacks that reveal who these characters are. The flashbacks aren't particularly interesting and are rather pedestrian. And except for the flashbacks relating to the serial killer [who is pretty obvious from the start - which destroys the mystery within the story right away], none of these flashbacks happen to effect the final act at all. I'm glad we get some depth to these characters, but there could have been less flashbacks and I still would have gotten the same information.

The film is also extremely slow for the first hour, making you wait for something really interesting to catch your eye. You'll probably end up distracting yourself with something else while this plays out, or at least have the urge to. But at least the final act is strong and I thought the ending was satisfying.

BLACKOUT is better than I was thinking it would be, but still a pretty mediocre flick for the most part. Worth a watch at least, but I wouldn't add it to my collection or anything.

2 Howls Outta 4

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