Shutter Island (film)

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Shutter Island
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by Martin Scorsese
Bradley J. Fischer
Mike Medavoy
Arnold W. Messer
Screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis
Steven Knight (Uncredited)
Based on Shutter Island 
by Dennis Lehane
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Mark Ruffalo
Ben Kingsley
Michelle Williams
Patricia Clarkson
Max von Sydow
Cinematography Robert Richardson
Edited by Thelma Schoonmaker
Appian Way Productions
Phoenix Pictures
Sikelia Productions
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • February 19, 2010 (2010-02-19)
Running time
138 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $80 million[1]
Box office $294,804,195[2]

Shutter Island is a 2010 American psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese. The film is based on Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel of the same name. Production started in March 2008. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as U.S. Marshal Edward "Teddy" Daniels, who is investigating a psychiatric facility on Shutter Island. Positively cited by movie reviewers, the film grossed over $128 million in its initial domestic theater release,[2] as well as an additional $166 million internationally. Shutter Island was originally slated to be released on October 2, 2009, but Paramount Pictures pushed the release date to February 19, 2010.[3]

In August 2014, Paramount Television and HBO were reported to be brainstorming a TV series called Ashecliffe, which will serve as an origin story for the film.[4]


In 1954, two U.S. Marshals, Edward "Teddy" Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, travel to the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane on Shutter Island located in Boston Harbor, as part of an investigation into the disappearance of patient Rachel Solando, incarcerated for drowning her three children. The sole clue is a note left by Solando, which reads: "The law of 4; who is 67?" Shortly after arrival, a storm prevents their return to the mainland for several days. Daniels finds the staff confrontational: the lead psychiatrist, Dr. John Cawley, refuses to hand over records of the hospital staff; Solando's doctor, Dr. Sheehan, had left on vacation after her disappearance, and they are barred from searching Ward C and told that the lighthouse on the island has already been searched, so there is no need to search it. When a patient is being interrogated by Daniels, with a subterfuge she sends Aule away for a few seconds and scribbles "RUN" in Daniels's notepad.

The unpleasant air of the Ashecliffe Hospital causes Daniels to start having migraine headaches, waking visions of his involvement in the Dachau liberation reprisals, and disturbing dreams of his wife, Dolores Chanal, who was killed in a fire set by a local arsonist named Andrew Laeddis. In one dream, Chanal tells Daniels that Solando is still on the island, as well as Laeddis, who also went missing months ago. Daniels later explains to Aule that locating Laeddis was an ulterior motive for taking the case.

As Daniels and Aule continue their investigation, they find that Solando has been found by the staff with no explanation. With neither the staff or patients helping, Daniels decides to break into Ward C, and eventually meets George Noyce, another patient, in a solitary confinement. Noyce warns Daniels that Ashecliffe is performing questionable experiments on its patients, and sends the incurable to the lighthouse to be lobotomized, which is why they were banned from searching the lighthouse. As Daniels leaves, Noyce asserts that everyone on the island, including Aule, is playing in a game designed for Daniels.

Meanwhile, Daniels regroups with Aule and they make their way to the lighthouse, but as they attempt to traverse the cliffs, they become separated. Daniels has a glimpse of a body that has precipitated on the rocks, and climbs down the cliff but finds no sign of Aule. Instead climbing back he finds a woman hiding in a cave, who claims to be the real Rachel Solando. The woman asserts she was a former psychiatrist at Ashecliffe until she discovered the experiments with psychotropic medication in an attempt to develop mind control techniques. When she attempted to alert the authorities, she was committed as a patient to prevent her from escaping. Leaving the woman, Daniels returns to the hospital where Dr. Cawley claims that Daniels arrived to the island alone, with no evidence of Aule ever being there.

Determined but confused, Daniels returns to the lighthouse and breaks into it. At the top, he finds Dr. Cawley waiting for him. Cawley explains that Andrew Laeddis is actually Daniels himself, "[their] most dangerous patient", incarcerated in Ward C for murdering his manic depressive wife after she drowned their children, thus revealing that "Solando" is actually his deceased wife. Edward Daniels and Rachel Solando are anagrams of Andrew Laeddis and Dolores Chanal ("the law of 4"), and Laeddis is the 67th patient at Ashecliffe ("who is 67?"); furthermore, the little girl from Laeddis' recurring dreams is his daughter, Rachel.

According to Dr. Cawley, the events of the past several days have been designed to break Laeddis' conspiracy-laden insanity by allowing him to play out the role of Daniels. The hospital staff, including Dr. Sheehan posing as Aule and a nurse posing as Rachel Solando, were part of the test, and the migraines that Laeddis suffered were withdrawal symptoms from his medication, as well as hallucinating the "real Rachel Solando". As memories of reality and realization that Daniels was only his play, this overwhelms Laeddis, and he faints.

Laeddis awakes in the hospital, under watch of Dr. Cawley and Sheehan. When questioned, Laeddis tells the truth in a coherent manner, which satisfies the doctors as a sign of progression. Nevertheless, Dr. Cawley notes that they had achieved this state nine months before but Laeddis had quickly regressed, and further warns that this will be Laeddis' last chance to redeem himself.

Some time later, Laeddis relaxes on the hospital grounds with Dr. Sheehan, but calls him "Chuck" and says they need to get off the island. Sheehan shakes his head to an observing Cawley, who gestures to the orderlies towards Laeddis. As he is about to be taken away, Laeddis asks Dr. Sheehan, "Which would be worse? To live as a monster, or die as a good man?", signifying that his regression is only an act. Laeddis then calmly leaves with the orderlies, to be lobotomized.



The rights to Dennis Lehane's novel Shutter Island were first optioned to Columbia Pictures in 2003. Columbia did not act on the option and it lapsed back to Lehane who sold it to Phoenix Pictures. Phoenix hired Laeta Kalogridis and together they developed the film for a year. Director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio were both attracted to the project.[5] Production began on March 6, 2008.[6]

Lehane's inspiration for the hospital and island setting was Long Island in Boston Harbor, which he had visited during the Blizzard of 1978 as a child with his uncle and family.[7]

Shutter Island was mainly filmed in Massachusetts, with Taunton being the location for the World War II flashback scenes.[8] Old industrial buildings in Taunton's Whittenton Mills Complex replicated the Dachau concentration camp.[9] The old Medfield State Hospital in Medfield, Massachusetts was another key location. Cawley's office scenes were the second floor of the chapel during the late evening. Lights were shone through the windows to make it look like it was daytime. The crew painted the hospital's brick walls to look like plywood. This served the dual purpose of acting as scenery and blocking the set from view of a local road. The crew wanted to film at the old Worcester State Hospital, but demolition of surrounding buildings made it impossible. Borderland State Park in Easton, Massachusetts was used for the cabin scene. The film used Peddocks Island as a setting for the story's island. East Point, in Nahant, Massachusetts was the location for the lighthouse scenes.[10] Filming ended on July 2, 2008.[11]


Shutter Island: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released February 2, 2010
Genre Film soundtrack
Length 116:41
Label Rhino Records
Producer Robbie Robertson
John Powell

Shutter Island: Music from the Motion Picture was released on February 2, 2010, by Rhino Records. The film has no original score. Instead, Scorsese's longtime collaborator Robbie Robertson created an ensemble of previously recorded material to use in the film.

According to a statement on Paramount's website: "The collection of modern classical music [on the soundtrack album] was hand-selected by Robertson, who is proud of its scope and sound. 'This may be the most outrageous and beautiful soundtrack I've ever heard.' [Robertson stated]."[12]

A full track-listing of the album can be seen below. All the musical works are featured in the final film.

Disc 1
  1. "Fog Tropes" (Ingram Marshall) – (Orchestra of St. Lukes & John Adams)
  2. "Symphony No. 3: Passacaglia – Allegro Moderato" (Krzysztof Penderecki) – (National Polish Radio Symphony & Antoni Wit)
  3. "Music for Marcel Duchamp" (John Cage) – (Philipp Vandré)
  4. "Hommage à John Cage" – (Nam June Paik)
  5. "Lontano" (György Ligeti) – (Wiener Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado)
  6. "Rothko Chapel 2" (Morton Feldman) – (UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus)
  7. "Cry" – (Johnnie Ray)
  8. "On the Nature of Daylight" – (Max Richter)
  9. "Uaxuctum: The Legend of the Mayan City Which They Themselves Destroyed for Religious Reasons – 3rd Movement" (Giacinto Scelsi) – (Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra)
  10. "Quartet for Strings and Piano in A Minor" (Gustav Mahler) – (Prazak Quartet)
Disc 2
  1. "Christian Zeal and Activity" (John Adams) – (The San Francisco Symphony & Edo de Waart)
  2. "Suite for Symphonic Strings: Nocturne" (Lou Harrison) – (The New Professionals Orchestra & Rebecca Miller)
  3. "Lizard Point" – (Brian Eno)
  4. "Four Hymns: II for Cello and Double Bass" (Alfred Schnittke) – (Torleif Thedéen & Entcho Radoukanov)
  5. "Root of an Unfocus" (John Cage) – (Boris Berman)
  6. "Prelude – The Bay" – (Ingram Marshall)
  7. "Wheel of Fortune" – (Kay Starr)
  8. "Tomorrow Night" – (Lonnie Johnson)
  9. "This Bitter Earth"/"On the Nature of Daylight" – (Dinah Washington & Max Richter; Arrangement by Robbie Robertson)


As a period piece, Shutter Island is laced with nods to different films in the film noir and horror genre, and could generally be viewed as paying homage to Alfred Hitchcock's works.[13] Scorsese stated in an interview that while the main reference to Teddy Daniels was Dana Andrews' character in Laura, he was also influenced by several very low-budget 1940s zombie movies made by Val Lewton.[14] The main frame of the plot resembles that of William Peter Blatty's The Ninth Configuration,[15][16][17] as well as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.[17][18][19] La Croix noted that Shutter Island was a "complex and puzzling" work which borrowed from genres as diverse as detective and fantasy, and notably the psychological thriller.[20]

There have been differing opinions over the ending of the film in which Laeddis tells Dr. Sheehan that one can "live as a monster, or die as a good man"—a line that does not appear in the book. According to Scorsese's psychiatric adviser, Professor James Gilligan of New York University, Laeddis' last words mean: "I feel too guilty to go on living. I'm not going to actually commit suicide, but I'm going to vicariously commit suicide by handing myself over to these people who're going to lobotomise me."[21] Dennis Lehane, however, was quoted as saying, "Personally, I think he has a momentary flash.... It's just one moment of sanity mixed in the midst of all the other delusions."[21]


Martin Scorsese at the premiere of Shutter Island at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival

The film was scheduled to be released by Paramount Pictures in the United States and Canada on October 2, 2009.[22] Paramount later announced it was going to push back the release date to February 19, 2010.[23] Reports attribute the pushback to Paramount not having "the financing in 2009 to spend the $50 to $60 million necessary to market a big awards pic like this," to DiCaprio's unavailability to promote the film internationally, and to Paramount's hope that the economy might rebound enough by February 2010 that a film geared toward adult audiences would be more viable financially.[24]

The film premiered at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival as part of the competition screening on February 13, 2010.[25][26] Spanish distributor Manga Films distributed the film in Spain after winning a bidding war that reportedly reached the $6 million to $8 million range.[27]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received generally positive reviews from critics.[28] Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 69% based on reviews from 242 critics, and reports a rating average of 6.6 out of 10. The site's consensus reads: "It may not rank with Scorsese's best work, but Shutter Island's gleefully unapologetic genre thrills represent the director at his most unrestrained."[29] The film received a weighted average score of 63/100 from Metacritic based on 37 reviews from mainstream critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[28]

Lawrence Toppman of The Charlotte Observer gave the film 4/4 stars claiming "After four decades, Martin Scorsese has earned the right to deliver a simple treatment of a simple theme with flair."[30] Writing for The Wall Street Journal, John Anderson highly praised the film, suggesting it "requires multiple viewings to be fully realized as a work of art. Its process is more important than its story, its structure more important than the almost perfunctory plot twists it perpetrates. It's a thriller, a crime story and a tortured psychological parable about collective guilt."[31] Awarding the film 3½ stars out of 4, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote "the movie is about: atmosphere, ominous portents, the erosion of Teddy's confidence and even his identity. It's all done with flawless directorial command. Scorsese has fear to evoke, and he does it with many notes."[32]

The Orlando Sentinel '​s Roger Moore, who gave the film 2½ stars out of 4, wrote, "It's not bad, but as Scorsese, America's greatest living filmmaker and film history buff should know, even Hitchcock came up short on occasion. See for yourself."[33] Dana Stevens of Slate described the film "an aesthetically and at times intellectually exciting puzzle, but it's never emotionally involving."[34] The Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday negatively described the film as being "weird".[35] A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote in his review that "Something TERRIBLE is afoot. Sadly, that something turns out to be the movie itself."[36]

Box office[edit]

The film opened #1 at the box office with $41 million, according to studio estimates. The movie gave Scorsese his best box office opening yet.[37] The film remained #1 in its second weekend with $22.2 million.[38] Eventually, the film has grossed $128,012,934 in North America and $166,790,080 in foreign markets, for a total of $294,803,014[2] and became Scorsese's second highest-grossing film worldwide.[39]

Home media[edit]

Shutter Island was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 8, 2010, in the USA,[40] and on August 2, 2010 in the UK.[41] The UK release featured two editions—a standard edition and a limited steel-case edition.


  1. ^ "Films | Shutter Island". Retrieved 2010-02-18. 
  2. ^ a b c "Shutter Island (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-12-26. 
  3. ^ Finke, Nikki (2009-08-21). "SHOCKER! Paramount Moves Scorsese’s ‘Shutter Island’ To February 19, 2010". Retrieved 2010-02-18. 
  4. ^ Goldstein, Meredith; Shanahan, Mark (26 August 2014). "‘Shutter Island’ might be a TV show". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  5. ^ Fleming, Michael (October 22, 2007). "Scorsese, DiCaprio team for 'Island'". Variety. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  6. ^ Mayberry, Carly (February 26, 2008). "Trio of stars in for 'Shutter'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  7. ^ Symkus, Ed, "Real local flavor on display in 'Shutter Island'", The Patriot Ledger, Feb. 19, 2010
  8. ^ Alspach, Kyle (March 8, 2008). "Raynham native plays Nazi soldier executed in Scorsese film". The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  9. ^ Downing, Vicki-Ann (March 8, 2008). "Film adaptation of Lehane’s novel a boon to the region". (GateHouse Media). Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  10. ^ Riglian, Adam (April 14, 2008). "DiCaprio, Scorsese filming on Peddocks Island". The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  11. ^ Fee, Gayle; Laura Raposa (July 3, 2008). "DiCaprio, crew cap ‘Ashecliffe’ shoot". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  12. ^ "The Music of Menace From Shutter Island". January 13, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-18. 
  13. ^ Saba, Michael (February 19, 2010). "Shutter Island Review". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 2010-10-12. Scorsese gets his Hitchcock on. 
  14. ^ Brown, Mick (March 7, 2010). "Martin Scorsese interview for Shutter Island". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 'The key film I showed Leo and Mark,’ Scorsese says, 'was Laura—Dana Andrews, the way he wears his tie, and the way he walks through a room, and he doesn’t even look at anybody; he’s always playing that little game. He’s just trying to get the facts.’ But the films, he adds, that he had 'really tied up tight’ in mood and tone were the lower-than-low-budget schlockers made in the 1940s by Val Lewton when he was the head of the 'horror department’ at RKO PicturesCat People, Isle of the Dead, The Seventh Victim and I Walked with a Zombie. 
  15. ^ Daniels, Derek (December 1, 2010). "The Ninth Configuration (Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved 2011-09-08. 30 years before the disappointing Shutter Island took viewers to a remote mental asylum with a world-turned-upside-down storyline, William Peter Blatty gave us this... 
  16. ^ "'Shutter Island' shows the power of isolation". LA Times. February 21, 2010. Retrieved 2011-09-08. A better version of this basic story was done 30 years ago by William Peter Blatty: The Ninth Configuration. 
  17. ^ a b Packer, Sharon (September 5, 2012). Cinema's Sinister Psychiatrists: from Caligari to Hannibal. New York, NY: McFarland. p. 197. ISBN 9780786463909. Retrieved April 4, 2014. The Ninth Configuration is far less polished than Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, but the principle is the same. 
  18. ^ Raw, Kaurence and Ersin Tutan, Defne (2012). The Adaptation of History: Essays on Ways of Telling the Past. McFarland and Company. p. 51. ISBN 9780786472543. 
  19. ^ Gregoriou, Christiana (2012). Constructing Crime: Discourse and Cultural Representations of Crime and 'Deviance'. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 79. ISBN 9780230392083. 
  20. ^ Schwartz, Arnaud "'Shutter Island' : Martin Scorsese face au dérèglement de l'esprit". La Croix, February 23, 2010. Retrieved January 3, 2012 (French).
  21. ^ a b Cox, David (July 29, 2010). "Shutter Island's ending explained". The Guardian. Retrieved May 21, 2012. 
  22. ^ McClintock, Pamela (February 13, 2008). "'Star Trek' pushed back to 2009". Variety. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  23. ^ "Shutter Island Pushed Back to February". Retrieved 2010-11-19.
  24. ^ Finke, Nikki (August 21, 2009). "SHOCKER! Paramount Moves Scorsese's 'Shutter Island' To February 19, 2010". Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  25. ^ "Shutter Island". Berlinale 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-19.
  26. ^ "Awards for Shutter Island (2010)". IMDb. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  27. ^ De Pablos, Emiliano (May 17, 2008). "Manga nabs 'Shutter Island'". Variety. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  28. ^ a b "Shutter Island". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Shutter Island". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  30. ^ Toppman, Lawrence. "'Shutter' yields shudders – and ideas". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved October 12, 2013.  4/4 stars
  31. ^ Anderson, John (February 19, 2010). "Film Reviews: Scorsese's 'Shutter Island', Polanski's 'The Ghost Writer'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  32. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 17, 2010). "Shutter Island Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 12, 2013.  3.5/4 stars
  33. ^ Moore, Roger (February 17, 2010). "Movie Review: Shutter Island". Orlando Sentinel.  2.5/4 stars
  34. ^ Stevens, Dana (February 18, 2010). "I'm Surrounded by Crazy People – Leo DiCaprio scrunches his face in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island". Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  35. ^ Hornaday, Ann (February 19, 2010). "Critic Review for Shutter Island". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  36. ^ Scott, A. O. (February 19, 2010). "Movie Review: Shutter Island". The New York Times. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  37. ^ Brandon Gray (February 21, 2010). "`Shutter Island' Lights Up". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  38. ^ Brandon Gray (March 1, 2010). "'Shutter Island' Hangs On, ‘Cop Out,’ ‘Crazies’ Debut Decently". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  39. ^ Grey, Brandon (May 20, 2010). "‘Shutter Island' Is Scorsese’s Top Movie Worldwide". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  40. ^
  41. ^

External links[edit]