Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) splashes his face with water, and tells himself he just has to "pull it together". This is the beginning of Teddy's trip, and as he stands in the dirty, cluttered washroom of a boat heading to Shutter Island, he has no idea that this is only the beginning of the onslaught of troubles coming his way.
Teddy is a U.S. Marshall who, accompanied by his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), is going to solve the mystery of a female patient who went missing at the famous Shutter Island facility for the criminally insane. However, Teddy has his own personal reasons for going to the island, and he's going to drag Chuck along for a ride into a tangled web that includes conspiracy, murder, and a finishing plot twist that will leave the viewer's mouth wide open.
DiCaprio is gut-wrenching as a violent enforcer with a haunted past that just won't leave him alone. He throws a tantrum at the director of the hospital (Ben Kingsley, in a fantastic turn) early in the film when he cannot get his way, and the viewer can't help but wonder if he has these violent fits more often than we're shown. Teddy is frantic and suspicious of everything and everyone around him, and his spiral into the depths of both the strange occurrences and his own internal paranoia leads to DiCaprio's best performance since 2006's The Departed. The way DiCaprio lives and breathes as Teddy Daniels shows his dedication to the role, and it pays off big time.
DiCaprio is the star, and everyone else is just around to support the one-man-show. However, Ruffalo's performance may be just as important, as he takes on a more nuanced and subtle endeavor. Chuck is the sense of calm and collected thought to counter Teddy's frantic conspiracy theories and wild actions. Is Teddy right? Chuck has no idea, but he does know that one of them must stay calm, and thus he is the complete opposite of Teddy in order to provide a balance.
Ruffalo will be under-appreciated for this turn, and some may call it wooden. However, upon a second viewing it will be understood just how important and telling to the story Ruffalo's performance truly is. Supporting players Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, and Jackie Earle Haley, in a chilling cameo, are all fantastic, and it's nice to see her in her first mainstream film since her ex-husband Heath Ledger passed, and she is the scariest performer in the film.
Shutter Island is a truly horrifying film, and everything from the haunting score to Martin Scorsese's crafty directing are spot-on. Scorsese, in his fourth collaboration with DiCaprio, shows the he won't be slowing down any time soon, despite winning his long-awaited Oscar for The Departed. The two men may, in the future, be regarded as a pair whose films together may even rival those of Robert De Niro and Scorsese's. Shutter Island is, for all intents and purposes, a triumph of a film, and the first psychological thriller in years to truly get inside your head and chill you to the bone.
What's even better is that the film just gets better and better on repeated viewings. See Shutter Island once to find out what the hype's about, and then see it again to catch everything you missed. A film like this that merits a second or third viewing isn't just a great film. it is a masterpiece, and Shutter Island is one of the best of the decade.