Shutter Island (film)

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

Shutter Island is a 2010 American neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Laeta Kalogridis, based on Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel of the same name. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as U.S. Marshal Edward "Teddy" Daniels who is investigating a psychiatric facility on Shutter Island after one of the patients goes missing. Mark Ruffalo plays his partner officer, Ben Kingsley is the facility's lead psychiatrist, Max von Sydow is a German doctor and Michelle Williams is Daniels's wife. Released on February 19, 2010, the film received mostly positive reviews from critics, was chosen by National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2010 and grossed over $294 million worldwide.

The film is also noteworthy for its soundtrack using classical (Mahler) and mainly modern classical music by composers such as Penderecki, Ligeti, Cage, Ingram Marshall, and others.


In 1954, U.S. Marshals Edward "Teddy" Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule travel to the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane on Shutter Island in Boston Harbor. They are investigating the disappearance of patient Rachel Solando, who was incarcerated for drowning her three children. Their only clue is a cryptic note found hidden in Solando's room: "The law of 4; who is 67?" The two men arrive just before a massive storm hits the island, preventing their return to the mainland for a few days.

Daniels and Aule find the staff confrontational. John Cawley, the lead psychiatrist, refuses to turn over records, and they learn that Solando's doctor Lester Sheehan left the island on vacation immediately after Solando disappeared. They are given access to the hospital, but they are told that Ward C is off limits and that the lighthouse has already been searched. While being interviewed, one patient secretly writes the word "RUN" in Daniels' notepad. Daniels starts to have migraine headaches from the hospital's atmosphere and has waking visions of his experiences during the liberation of Dachau. He has disturbing dreams of his wife Dolores Chanal, who was killed in a fire set by Andrew Laeddis, a local arsonist. In one instance, she tells him that Solando is still on the island somewhere—as is Laeddis, who everyone claims was never there to begin with. Daniels later explains to Aule that locating Laeddis was an ulterior personal motive for taking the case.

During their investigation, Daniels and Aule find that Solando has abruptly resurfaced with no explanation as to her former whereabouts or how she escaped. This prompts Daniels to break into the restricted Ward C. There he encounters George Noyce, a patient in solitary confinement. Noyce warns him that the doctors are performing questionable experiments on the patients, some of whom are taken to the lighthouse to be lobotomized. Noyce warns Daniels that everyone else on the island is playing an elaborate game specifically designed for Daniels—including his partner Aule.

Daniels regroups with Aule and is determined to investigate the lighthouse. They become separated while climbing the cliffs toward it, and Daniels later sees what he believes to be Aule's body on the rocks below. By the time he climbs down, however, the body has disappeared, but he finds a cave where he discovers a woman in hiding who claims to be the real Rachel Solando. She states that she is a former psychiatrist at the hospital who discovered the experiments with psychotropic medication and trans-orbital lobotomy in an attempt to develop mind control techniques. Before she could report her findings to the authorities, however, she was forcibly committed to Ashecliffe as a patient. Daniels returns to the hospital, but finds no evidence of Aule ever being there.

Daniels is convinced that Aule was taken to the lighthouse; he breaks into the lighthouse only to discover Cawley calmly waiting there for him. Cawley explains that Daniels is actually Andrew Laeddis, their "most dangerous patient" incarcerated in Ward C for murdering his manic depressive wife Dolores Chanal after she drowned their children. Edward Daniels and Rachel Solando are anagrams of Andrew Laeddis and Dolores Chanal; furthermore, the little girl from Laeddis's recurring dreams is his daughter Rachel. According to Cawley, the events of the past several days have been designed to break Laeddis's conspiracy-laden insanity by allowing him to play out the role of Daniels. The hospital staff were part of the test, including Sheehan posing as Aule and a nurse posing as Rachel Solando. The migraines that Laeddis suffered were withdrawal symptoms from his medication, as were the hallucinations of the "real Rachel Solando". Overwhelmed, Laeddis faints.

Laeddis awakens in the hospital under the watch of Cawley and Sheehan. When questioned, he tells the truth in a coherent manner, which satisfies the doctors as a sign of progression. Nevertheless, Cawley notes that they had achieved this state nine months before but Laeddis quickly regressed, and further warns that this will be his last chance to redeem himself; otherwise, they will have to lobotomize him for safety reasons, citing how he previously attacked and almost killed Noyce for calling him by his real name.

Some time later, Laeddis relaxes on the hospital grounds with Sheehan, but goes back to calling him "Chuck" again, and says that they urgently need to leave the island because bad things are going on. Sheehan shakes his head to an observing Cawley to indicate the experiment has not worked, and so Cawley gestures to the orderlies to take Laeddis to be lobotomized. But as the orderlies approach, Laeddis asks Sheehan if it is worse to live as a monster or die as a good man, indicating that he actually has not gone back to being delusional but is simply pretending he has. He is choosing to get lobotomized as Daniels, the good man, rather than live with the guilt of being Laeddis, the murderer. With Sheehan looking at him in surprise and shock, Laeddis calmly gets up and walks towards the orderlies. They leave together for the lighthouse.



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.[3] Production began on March 6, 2008.[4]

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.[5]

Shutter Island was mainly filmed in Massachusetts, with Taunton being the location for the World War II flashback scenes.[6] Old industrial buildings in Taunton's Whittenton Mills Complex replicated the Dachau concentration camp.[7] 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.[8] The scenes were Teddy and Chuck are caught in the hurricane were filmed at the Wilson Mountain Reservation in Dedham, Massachusetts.[9] Filming ended on July 2, 2008.[10]

Shutter Island was originally slated to be released on October 2, 2009, but Paramount Pictures delayed it until February 19, 2010.[11]


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]."[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)


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.[13] Scorsese stated in an interview that the main reference to Teddy Daniels was Dana Andrews' character in Laura, and that 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, fantasy, and the psychological thriller.[20]

There have been differing opinions over the ending of the film in which Laeddis asks Dr. Sheehan, "[W]hich 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' 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."[21] 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."[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]

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 68% based on 253 reviews, with an average rating of 6.63/10. 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."[28] On Metacritic, the film received a weighted average score of 63 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[29] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average "C+" grade, on an F to A+ scale.[30]

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."[31] 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."[32] Awarding the film ​3 12 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."[33]

The Orlando Sentinel's Roger Moore, who gave the film ​2 12 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."[34] Dana Stevens of Slate described the film "an aesthetically and at times intellectually exciting puzzle, but it's never emotionally involving".[35] The Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday negatively described the film as being "weird".[36] 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."[37]

Box office[edit]

The film opened #1 at the US box office with $41 million, according to studio estimates. The movie gave Scorsese his best box office opening yet.[38] The film remained #1 in its second weekend with $22.2 million.[39] Eventually, the film grossed worldwide $294,803,014[2] and became Scorsese's second highest-grossing film worldwide.[40]

Home media[edit]

Shutter Island was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 8, 2010, in the US,[41] and on August 2, 2010 in the UK.[42] The UK release featured two editions—a standard edition and a limited steel-case edition.


  1. ^ "Films | Shutter Island". Retrieved February 18, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Shutter Island (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 26, 2010.
  3. ^ Fleming, Michael (October 22, 2007). "Scorsese, DiCaprio team for 'Island'". Variety. Retrieved January 8, 2008.
  4. ^ Mayberry, Carly (February 26, 2008). "Trio of stars in for 'Shutter'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 27, 2008.
  5. ^ Symkus, Ed, "Real local flavor on display in 'Shutter Island'", The Patriot Ledger, February 19, 2010
  6. ^ Alspach, Kyle (March 8, 2008). "Raynham native plays Nazi soldier executed in Scorsese film". The Patriot Ledger. Archived from the original on May 29, 2012. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  7. ^ Downing, Vicki-Ann (March 8, 2008). "Film adaptation of Lehane's novel a boon to the region". Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  8. ^ Riglian, Adam (April 14, 2008). "DiCaprio, Scorsese filming on Peddocks Island". The Patriot Ledger. Archived from the original on October 27, 2008. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  9. ^ "Shutter Island 2010". The Worldwide Guide To Movie Locations. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  10. ^ Fee, Gayle; Laura Raposa (July 3, 2008). "DiCaprio, crew cap 'Ashecliffe' shoot". Boston Herald. Retrieved July 17, 2008.
  11. ^ Finke, Nikki (August 21, 2009). "SHOCKER! Paramount Moves Scorsese's 'Shutter Island' To February 19, 2010". Retrieved February 18, 2010.
  12. ^ "The Music of Menace From Shutter Island". January 13, 2010. Archived from the original on January 30, 2010. Retrieved February 18, 2010.
  13. ^ Saba, Michael (February 19, 2010). "Shutter Island Review". Paste Magazine. Retrieved October 12, 2010. Scorsese gets his Hitchcock on.
  14. ^ Brown, Mick (March 7, 2010). "Martin Scorsese interview for Shutter Island". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved October 13, 2010. '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 September 8, 2011. 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". Los Angeles Times. February 21, 2010. Retrieved September 8, 2011. 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 & 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 (in 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 February 13, 2008.
  23. ^ "Shutter Island Pushed Back to February". Retrieved November 19, 2010.
  24. ^ Finke, Nikki (August 21, 2009). "SHOCKER! Paramount Moves Scorsese's 'Shutter Island' To February 19, 2010". Retrieved October 29, 2009.
  25. ^ "Shutter Island". Berlinale 2010. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
  26. ^ "Awards for Shutter Island (2010)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
  27. ^ De Pablos, Emiliano (May 17, 2008). "Manga nabs 'Shutter Island'". Variety. Retrieved July 29, 2008.
  28. ^ "Shutter Island (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  29. ^ "Shutter Island". Metacritic. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  30. ^ "CinemaScore".
  31. ^ Toppman, Lawrence. "'Shutter' yields shudders – and ideas". The Charlotte Observer. Archived from the original on March 31, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 4/4 stars
  32. ^ Anderson, John (February 19, 2010). "Film Reviews: Scorsese's 'Shutter Island', Polanski's 'The Ghost Writer'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  33. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 17, 2010). "Shutter Island Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 3.5/4 stars
  34. ^ Moore, Roger (February 17, 2010). "Movie Review: Shutter Island". Orlando Sentinel. 2.5/4 stars
  35. ^ Stevens, Dana (February 18, 2010). "I'm Surrounded by Crazy People – Leo DiCaprio scrunches his face in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island". Slate. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  36. ^ Hornaday, Ann (February 19, 2010). "Critic Review for Shutter Island". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  37. ^ Scott, A. O. (February 19, 2010). "Movie Review: Shutter Island". The New York Times. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  38. ^ Brandon Gray (February 21, 2010). "`Shutter Island' Lights Up". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 13, 2010.
  39. ^ Brandon Gray (March 1, 2010). "'Shutter Island' Hangs On, 'Cop Out,' 'Crazies' Debut Decently". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 13, 2010.
  40. ^ Grey, Brandon (May 20, 2010). "'Shutter Island' Is Scorsese's Top Movie Worldwide". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  41. ^ Shutter Island Amazon. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  42. ^ Shutter Island (2010) Amazon. Retrieved October 24, 2010.

External links[edit]