Shutter Island (film)

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Shutter Island
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMartin Scorsese
Screenplay byLaeta Kalogridis
Based onShutter Island
by Dennis Lehane
Produced by
CinematographyRobert Richardson
Edited byThelma Schoonmaker
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
  • February 13, 2010 (2010-02-13) (Berlinale)
  • February 19, 2010 (2010-02-19) (United States)
Running time
139 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$80 million[1]
Box office$294.8 million[2][3]

Shutter Island is a 2010 American neo-noir psychological thriller film[4] directed by Martin Scorsese. It is adapted by Laeta Kalogridis from the 2003 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, about a Deputy U.S. Marshal who comes to Shutter Island to investigate a psychiatric facility, after one of the patients goes missing. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, with Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow and Michelle Williams in supporting roles.

Released on February 19, 2010, Shutter Island received generally positive reviews from critics, was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2010, and grossed $295 million worldwide. The film is noted for its soundtrack, which prominently used classical music, such as that of Gustav Mahler, Krzysztof Penderecki, György Ligeti, John Cage, Ingram Marshall, and Max Richter.


In 1954, U.S. Marshal Edward "Teddy" Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule travel to Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane on Shutter Island, Boston Harbor, to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solando, a patient of the hospital who had previously drowned her three children.

The staff, led by psychiatrist Dr. John Cawley, appear uncooperative. The marshals learn that Dr. Lester Sheehan, who was treating Solando, had left the island on vacation immediately after Solando disappeared. Teddy experiences migraine headaches, flashbacks of his experiences as a U.S. Army soldier during the liberation of Dachau, and also vivid dreams of his wife Dolores, who was killed in a fire set by arsonist Andrew Laeddis. Teddy explains to Chuck that he took the case to find Laeddis, believing he is on the island. Solando suddenly resurfaces and believes Teddy is her husband. Teddy later breaks into the restricted Ward C to find Laeddis, where he meets patient George Noyce who appears to know Teddy. He tells Teddy that the doctors experiment on patients and some are taken to a lighthouse to be lobotomized. He warns Teddy that everyone is deceiving him and tells him not to trust Chuck.

Teddy regroups with Chuck and they climb the cliffs toward the lighthouse but become separated. Believing he saw Chuck's body on the rocks below, Teddy climbs down but finds only a cave where a woman claiming to be the real Solando is hiding. She states that she is a former psychiatrist who discovered clandestine experiments to develop mind control but was forcibly committed. She says that Cawley and Dr. Naehring will use Teddy's war trauma to feign a psychotic break, allowing them to have him also committed. Teddy returns to the hospital and is greeted by Cawley. When Teddy asks about Chuck's whereabouts, Cawley insists that Teddy does not have a partner and that he arrived on the island alone.

Convinced Chuck was taken to the lighthouse, Teddy heads there but runs into Naehring, who attempts to sedate him. Teddy overpowers him and breaks into the lighthouse, only to discover Cawley waiting for him. Teddy confronts Cawley and reveals his encounter with Solando, saying he believes Cawley is experimenting on him. Cawley denies that Solando ever existed, and insists that Teddy has not been drugged, explaining the tremors as withdrawals from chlorpromazine, a neuroleptic medication that Teddy has been taking for two years. Chuck arrives and reveals he is, in fact, Dr. Sheehan. Cawley explains that "Teddy" is Andrew Laeddis, a U.S. Marshal incarcerated at Ashecliffe for murdering his manic depressive wife after she drowned their three children. Andrew did not seek treatment for Dolores when she burned down their apartment and instead moved his family to a lake house, where Dolores carried out the killings. Cawley explains that Andrew's delusion is a result of his guilt, that his migraines and hallucinations are withdrawal symptoms, and that he had created the alternate persona of Edward Daniels,[a] also a Marshal, who acted violently and espoused conspiracy theories about the facility. The "investigation" is an elaborate role-play to regain his true persona. Overwhelmed by his sudden recall, Andrew faints.

Awakening later, Andrew calmly recounts the truth, satisfying the doctors that he is lucid. Cawley notes that they had achieved this state nine months before, but that Andrew had quickly regressed. He warns that this will be Andrew's last chance and if he lapses again he will be lobotomized due to his very violent conduct towards other patients such as Noyce, and towards the guards. Sometime later, Andrew relaxes on the hospital grounds with Sheehan. Appearing delusional, Andrew again refers to Sheehan as "Chuck" and says they must leave the island. Sheehan signals to Cawley, who orders that Andrew be lobotomized. Andrew then asks Sheehan if it would be worse "to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?" A stunned Sheehan calls Andrew "Teddy" but the latter does not respond and leaves peacefully with the orderlies for his operation.


(Clockwise) Shutter Island stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Michelle Williams



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. The stone lodge, next to Leach Pond, at Borderland State Park in Easton, Massachusetts, was used for the cabin scene.[10] 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.[11] The scenes where Teddy and Chuck are caught in the hurricane were filmed at the Wilson Mountain Reservation in Dedham, Massachusetts.[12] Filming ended on July 2, 2008.[13]


Shutter Island: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by
various artists
ReleasedFebruary 2, 2010
GenreFilm soundtrack
LabelRhino Records
ProducerRobbie Robertson
John Powell

Shutter Island: Music from the Motion Picture was released on February 2, 2010, by Rhino Records. The film does not have an 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]."[14]

A full track listing of the album is 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


Shutter Island is a period piece with nods to different films in the film noir and horror genres, paying particular homage to Alfred Hitchcock's works.[15] Scorsese stated in an interview that the main reference to Teddy Daniels was Dana Andrews's character in Laura, and that he was also influenced by several very low-budget 1940s zombie movies made by Val Lewton.[16] The main frame of the plot resembles that of William Peter Blatty's The Ninth Configuration,[17][18][19] as well as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.[19][20][21] La Croix noted that Shutter Island was a "complex and puzzling" work that borrowed from genres as diverse as detective, fantasy, and the psychological thriller.[22]

There have been differing opinions over the ending of the film, in which Laeddis asks Dr. Sheehan, "which would be worse – to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?", a line that does not appear in the book. Professor James Gilligan of New York University was Scorsese's psychiatric adviser, and he said that Laeddis's 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 lobotomize me."[23] Dennis Lehane, however, said, "Personally, I think he has a momentary flash.... It's just one moment of sanity mixed in the midst of all the other delusions."[23]


Director Martin Scorsese at the film's premiere at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival

The film was originally scheduled to be released by Paramount Pictures in the United States and Canada on October 2, 2009.[24] Paramount later announced it was going to push back the release date to February 19, 2010.[25] 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.[26]

The film premiered at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival as part of the competition screening on February 13, 2010.[27][28] Spanish distributor Manga Films distributed the film in Spain after winning a bidding war that reportedly reached the $6 million to $8 million range.[29]


Critical response[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 69% based on 264 reviews, with an average rating of 6.7/10. The site's critical 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."[30] On Metacritic, the film received a weighted average score of 63 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[31] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average "C+" grade, on an A+ to F scale.[32]

Lawrence Toppman of The Charlotte Observer gave the film four out of four stars, claiming, "After four decades, Martin Scorsese has earned the right to deliver a simple treatment of a simple theme with flair."[33] 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."[34]

Awarding the film three and a half stars out of four, 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."[35]

The Orlando Sentinel's Roger Moore, who gave the film two and a half stars out of four, 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."[36] Dana Stevens of Slate described the film "an aesthetically and at times intellectually exciting puzzle, but it's never emotionally involving".[37] The Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday negatively described the film as being "weird".[38] 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."[39]

Keith Uhlich of Time Out New York named Shutter Island the fifth-best film of 2010.[40]

Box office[edit]

Shutter Island was released alongside The Ghost Writer, and with $41 million finished first at the box office and gave Scorsese his highest-grossing box office opening to-date.[41] The film remained at #1 in its second weekend, with $22.2 million.[42] Eventually, it grossed worldwide $294,805,697[2] and became Scorsese's second highest-grossing film worldwide.[43] It is Scorsese's fifth movie to debut at the box office at #1 following Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, and The Departed.

Home media[edit]

Shutter Island was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 8, 2010, in the US[44] and on August 2, 2010, in the UK.[45] The UK release featured two editions—a standard edition and a limited steel-case edition.[46] For the tenth anniversary of the film's release, Paramount Pictures released a 4K steelbook and Blu-ray version on February 11, 2020.[47]

Other media[edit]

Unproduced TV series[edit]

In August 2014, Paramount Television and HBO were reported to be brainstorming a TV series called Ashecliffe, which would serve as an origin story for the film.[48]

Video game[edit]

A video game based on the film was released for PC.[49] A Nintendo DS version was planned, but cancelled.[50]


  1. ^ Crawley explains that "Edward Daniels" is an anagram of Andrew Laeddis, and "Rachel Solando" is an anagram of his dead wife, Dolores Chanal.


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  18. ^ "'Shutter Island' shows the power of isolation". Los Angeles Times. February 21, 2010. Archived from the original on April 9, 2018. Retrieved September 8, 2011. A better version of this basic story was done 29 years ago by William Peter Blatty: The Ninth Configuration.
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  20. ^ Raw, Kaurence & Ersin Tutan, Defne (2012). The Adaptation of History: Essays on Ways of Telling the Past. McFarland and Company. p. 51. ISBN 9780786472543. Archived from the original on November 17, 2016. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
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External links[edit]