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4K Ultra HD Review: Shutter Island: 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Steelbook

February 11, 2020

By John Corrado

Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island was released in theatres a decade ago this month, and now the director’s 2010 film has received a new, limited edition 4K Ultra HD release from Paramount, which comes in a nice steelbook package.

Based on Dennis Lehane’s 2003 novel of the same name, which was adapted for the screen by writer Laeta Kalogridis, the film follows U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), who are sent to the Ashcliffe Hospital, a mental institution for the criminally insane on a secluded island in Massachusetts, to investigate the disappearance of a patient.

As a massive storm hits the island, Teddy and Chuck become trapped there with little hope for escape, as Teddy is increasingly haunted by visions of his late wife (Michelle Williams) and traumatic flashbacks to his time in the war, including helping with the liberation of the concentration camp Dacau. The institution is overseen by Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), who is working on a radical new approach to treating mental illness through compassion and understanding rather than the barbaric psychosurgery techniques that were being used at the time including lobotomies and electroshock therapies.

But this is a view that is not held by head psychiatrist Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow), who would rather medicate and operate on the patients to the point of sedation. This conflict between old and new ways of treating violent, mentally ill patients is at the heart of Shutter Island, and the story is also rich with fascinating undertones about McCarthyism, and human experiments carried out by the government in an attempt to develop mind control techniques. Because of the nature of the plot, there is some question as to what is real throughout the film, which makes for an intriguing viewing experience.

The film was initially set to be released in October of 2009 for awards consideration, but it was pushed back to February of 2010 instead, a move that, as I recall, caused many to speculate upon the quality of the film before it even came out and could be evaluated on its own merits. While Shutter Island was somewhat understandably met with mixed reviews when it was finally released, with some not knowing how to react to Scorsese’s first and so far only attempt at making a horror movie, it never the less went on to become one of the director’s highest grossing films.

This was Scorsese’s first movie since the Oscar-winning The Departed, which gave him his first ever wins for Best Picture and Best Director, and his fourth collaboration with DiCaprio in a row following their work together on The Departed, The Aviator and Gangs of New York. The two teamed up again for The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013, a very different sort of film which incidentally surpassed this one in terms of box office grosses. For all of these reasons, there was a lot of pressure riding on Shutter Island, and the held back release date meant that it arrived just five months before DiCaprio’s starring role in Christopher Nolan’s similarly challenging Inception, which somewhat overshadowed it.

I had only seen Shutter Island once before, and I think it’s a film that gets better upon second viewing, when one can better appreciate the build up to the third act twists and really focus on how the pieces of the plot all fall in place. There are a lot of elements to admire about the film, including the very specific, foreboding tone of the piece, which is elevated by excellent production design and Robert Richardson’s moody cinematography. The film also features an evocative soundtrack of contemporary classical pieces culled together with the help of music supervisor Robbie Robertson.

The film is carried by a powerful performance from DiCaprio, who was still seeking his first Oscar at the time, as well as a strong supporting cast that includes memorable, single scene appearances from Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson. While Shutter Island initially appears to be somewhat of a pulpy mystery, it reveals itself to be a haunting film about trauma, memories, and how our minds help us deal with past pain. What Scorsese has made is a twisty, beautifully crafted and very well acted mix of horror and psychological thriller that, ten years later, deserves to be reevaluated with a fresh pair of eyes.

Along with the 4K Ultra HD disc, this release also comes with a regular Blu-ray, which includes the two excellent, extended featurettes Behind the Shutters and Into the Lighthouse. The former offers a look at how the book was adapted for the screen, and the latter is a fascinating piece about the real psychology behind the story, featuring interviews with Dr. James Gilligan who consulted on the film.

Shutter Island: 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Steelbook is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s 138 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: February 11th, 2020

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