Monday, May 17, 2010

SHUTTER ISLAND (2010) - a fevered take on the "exposition-sploitation" genre




Uh huh.

I got some naked pictures of Sharon Stone saved on my hard drive if you wanna check 'em out.


Well, no matta. Anyway, it's about freakin' time you got that academy award. When I saw that, I was like JOISEY REPRESENT!!!

I'm not from Jersey.

Yeahhhh...I saw your new movie
Shutter Island. Marty...IT WAS AWESOME! FRIGGIN' LEO! Yeaaahh...I bet he gets laid like a wildman!

I don't know.

I gotta ask...what's with the creepy kid and stuff? It reminded me of those twin girls in
The Shining...and what was with that old dude with the bear? THAT WAS FRIGGIN' CREEPY MARTY!

I don't know.

Yeaaahhh...hey Marty, you wanna sign my Giants jersey? I think I got a sharpie in my ride over there.

I gotta go.

Yeah, I bet you gotta go make a gangster movie or sumthin'...THAT'S SO FREAKIN' AWESOME! Hey Marty we should hang out sometime. I can throw some movie quotes at you; "WHO YOU FRIGGIN' LOOKIN' AT OVER HERE!"

No, I have to leave (runs away).

Marty! Marty? MARTY PLEASE STAY! Marty...I'm so lonely.


Martin Scorsese may stay in touch with the common man through his tough guy pictures, but he has just as many movies that feature his take on a particular genre: the musical (
New York, New York), the woman's picture (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore), the screwball comedy (After Hours), the psycho-thriller (Cape Fear), and, of course, buddhist-sploitation (Kundun). Marty tackles a gothic thriller novel for this latest project, and it can be filed under the heading of the "it may or may not be all in my head, and I'm hardly cognisant enough to be able to tell" genre, or possibly "Leo-sploitation".

So basically, Leo heads to a fake Alcatraz filled with nutballs, trying to find an escaped psychopath that is presumably hiding out somewhere on the island (although she may have already constructed a raft out of bamboo and coconuts and since landed in the "sane" world). There is a long introduction to the island and its residents, where Leo and his partner meet all the doctors, nurses, and security and what have you (with the occasional babbling psychopath), asking some pertinent questions along the way, jotting down "clues" in a little notepad. When the world is finally established, the screenplay resorts to providing a long parade of "nudge nudge, wink wink" moments, Monty Python-style, for Leo's benefit (and concurrently, the audience's).

You see, poor Leo is too thick headed and self deluded to not see a big ass twist coming, so it is up to an army of side characters to drop hints and innuendo. The job of the audience during all of this is to remain completely oblivious until the protracted ending, at which time they are finally allowed to assemble these "clues" into a big jigsaw puzzle (minus a few gaping holes) with the prolonged assistance of Ben Kingsley (playing a medical official in charge of exposition and plot holes). He even resorts to using a chalkboard at one point, as explaining a twist ending can sometimes be difficult to communicate, even within a twenty minute time frame, and visual aids are a dumbass' friend when forced to deal with such weighty material. I, for one, get frustrated when I've solved a convoluted mystery and continue to get hamfisted hints for an hour and a half, and yet the fabric of the plot remains cobbled together with denim patches and home ec stitching.

The whole enterprise reminds me of Brad Anderson's excellent
Session 9, and a comparison of the two shows contrasting approaches to similar pieces of genre material. Session 9 plays things close to the vest, hinting at horrors along the way while maintaining a realistic world gone slightly askew. Shutter Island, on the other hand, relies on an exposition heavy, clunky script, and Scorsese tries to overcome this by injecting some operatic style into the proceedings. The former film acts as if it is scared of an impending horror lying just behind the door; the latter smacks you in the head with them, through flashbacks, dream sequences, and dialogue. It's hard to be scared of something fictitious when it's repeatedly nudging you in the ribs, like some annoying ten-year-old.

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