Martin Scorsese's psychological thriller wallows in the conventions of its genre.
It's 1954, and two US Marshals are dispatched to a remote island to investigate the disappearance of a murderess at a hospital for the criminally insane. The psychologists there are shady from the off; their clipped British accents just one of many clues they're surely not to be trusted. But the brooding Teddy Daniels – Leonardo DiCaprio – has his own dark past: he's haunted by the death of his wife.
The soundtrack is crashingly overwrought, punishing innocent violins and ears alike. Excessive pathetic fallacy – stormy seas, destructive hurricanes – adds to the Gothic vibe created in ornate drawing rooms and dank, lunatic-filled corridors. The colour palette is all damp grey and green, with contrasting vividly lit flashbacks, dreams and hallucinations.
One thing you can be sure of – everyone is mad here. The viewers are liable to lose the plot, sometimes literally. All, of course, is not what it seems at the institution, and the film is ludicrously twisty, throwing in Nazi villainy, scientific experiments, revenge sub-plots and even a plague of rats.
Scorsese never reaches the Hitchcockian levels of suspense he's aiming for, and the "who's really insane?" line can feel laboured. But while Shutter Island is bonkers, it's also rather good fun.