Minnesota Atheists at the Movies: Shutter Island

Published by Minnesota Atheists on

By Jack Caravela

For our March 7th Reel and Meal, fifteen intrepid atheists journeyed to the Rosedale 14 Theatre in Roseville, Minnesota to see Martin Scorsese’s recently released film Shutter Island. This homage to film noirs of old seemed a natural choice for us, promising both suspense and fine performances by a number of distinguished actors, including Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow. Later, over pizza and hoagies at a nearby Davanni’s, the consensus was that while none of us were disappointed on either count, the film was not quite what we expected.

This review is not purposefully cryptic, but it is impossible to provide an accurate summary of Shutter Island without giving away plot twists and surprises. Please indulge me before reading the next paragraph by keeping in mind that this is a film in which nothing can be assumed to be as it seems.

As the story opens, two U.S. Marshals (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo) are traveling to a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the disappearance of a patient at a hospital for the criminally insane, a murderess who is under the delusion that she is living at home with her family and that all the attendants are servants. The Marshals are met with many of the familiar obstacles in movies of this genre: a secretive and suspicious staff (headed by Kingsley and von Sydow), forbidding terrain, and the fierce winds and rain of an approaching storm. In DiCaprio’s character we also have the well-worn archetype of a detective struggling with his own painful past. If these elements lead you to believe that Scorsese has made an old-fashioned whodunnit, you are hereby advised to suspend your judgment until the end of the film (and I do mean the very end; the twists are not complete until the very last line of dialogue).  

In the first part of our informal post-viewing discussion we went over the details of Shutter Island to compare our understandings of what “really” happened. Once we cleared up the minor plot points, the conversation delved into such weighty topics as the imperfection of memory and the power of delusions. A film that had been advertised as an-old fashioned suspense melodrama had provoked a rich and lively conversation and this may have been Shutter Island’s most satisfying surprise.

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