Shutter Island’s premise, at first, seems very similar to the mystery film and novel template. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels, it masquerades as a gritty noir movie. Teddy Daniels visits a hospital for the criminally insane investigating the disappearance of the murderer of his wife. Taking place in 1954, Shutter Island has all the elements of a noir movie. Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck Aule are comparable to the main characters of these films of the past, from the backstory and personality to even the wardrobe. Like these other investigators, Teddy is a hardened war veteran with a skill of reading people and a knack for deduction and logic. Throughout the film, Teddy encounters and clashes with the hospital staff who are hostile and non-compliant with him. He has to rely on breaking rules to further the case.
And as all noir films do, what should be a simple investigation soon becomes complicated. Just like in The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon, the plot thickens, new characters appear, already known characters change, and subplots appear. As the movie progresses, Teddy Daniels uncovers a deep conspiracy that includes government research, mind control, and forced lobotomies. This is where the movie departs from the its noir basis and enters the world of psychological thrillers in what I think is a crazy and interesting way. This departure is critical to the movie’s plot and is what makes the movie so great. This noir story being told turns out to be just that: a story. All of the characters’ back story and potential conspiracies are made up subconsciously by Teddy (Andrew Laeddis). It’s interesting to see that Teddy (Andrew)’s delusions take inspiration from these the films and novels that take part in the exact era that he lives in.
After the sharp twists and turns, the movie leaves a lasting impression on the watcher in the form of a question.
“Which would be worse: To live as a monster, or to die as a good man?”
It’s a hard question and one that leaves you thinking for a while even after the credits. As all good noir films, Shutter Island makes you think of the morality of character’s actions in a possibly immoral world.