Robert DeNiro landed his first big role in Martin Scorcese’s MEAN STREETS in 1973. It was the first film they worked on together and the beginning of a long and profitable relationship. Over the next 22 years the two made 8 films together including TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS and CASINO. Now it seems that Scorcese is going down that road of director/actor kinship once again, this time with Leonardo DiCaprio.
DiCaprio and Scorcese have already made four films together with a rumored fifth already in the works, but it wasn’t long before his role in GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002) that DiCaprio was making young girls and grown women alike swoon over his lithe, pubescent body and boyish good looks in movies like TITANIC and ROMEO+JULIET. His role in SHUTTER ISLAND, however, couldn’t be more different than the young, idealistic romantic boys he’s played in the past.
Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and fellow US Marshall Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) head to a high security mental institution off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the disappearance of a patient. It’s 1954, and a 1950s asylum immediately brings one thing to mind: lobotomies. Daniels, who was one of the US soldiers sent to Dachau at the end of WWII, has an idea that the doctors and nurses on Shutter Island are performing experiments on patients not unlike those the Nazis performed in concentration camps, and he’s there to “blow the lid off the place.” But he’s distracted by his haunting Dachau nightmares and memories of his dead wife (Michelle Williams), who frequently appears to him in stunning Technicolor dream sequences. It’s hard to say whether the use of Technicolor as well as the rear projection used in some of the outdoor scenes are an homage to 1950s filmmaking, but when you’re talking about Scorcese there’s a good chance that’s exactly what he’s doing.
It’s a great technique. Almost the entire story takes place over the course of a few rainy days, but in the hands of cinematographer Robert Richardson, who’s worked extensively with Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino and Scorcese, the film is so clear and vivid that even a palette of blues and grays seem to pop right off the screen. While it may be a popcorn-munching plot twister of a film, it’s still Scorcese at the helm along with DiCaprio, who is unsurprisingly adept at managing Daniels’ multiple personalities. He’s so good, in fact, that when it’s all over it’s Daniels you want to believe no matter how much the movie tells you not to. DiCaprio is quickly becoming one of the most masterful actors working today, and while it’s too early to tell if he’s the next DeNiro, if films like THE DEPARTED and THE AVIATOR are any indication, we can expect exciting things from the Scorcese/DiCaprio duo.