Monday, February 22, 2010

DiCaprio in 'Shutter Island'

I didn't even mention Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in my review of Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island. I usually don't like to dwell on performances because a) by the time I see them, the actor/actress in question has already won 15 different critics awards and it's terribly old news and b) directorial ticks and expressions have always been more interesting to me.

Nevertheless, Leonardo DiCaprio gives a performance worth talking about, and especially worth talking about after a second viewing, which as a whole, proves to be a differently rewarding experience itself.

First off, nobody is better at giving off a sense of delusion, confusion or moral turbulence better than DiCaprio, and I don't know any better way to describe the character of Teddy Daniels than as confused or delusional.

And while his squinty-eyed, sour-lemon face is now his go-to breakdown trump card, I think the "revelation" scene at the end of the film is heartbreaking stuff, and on a second viewing, you really notice some devastating facial gestures in his shakedown with Ben Kingsley.

And like the performance, the film as a whole just won't escape my mind. Its portrait of psychological fragility - the difference between man and monster - ringing more and more clearly with each passing moment. I think the more you see it, the more you think about it and the more you digest it, it becomes less and less of the manipulating, peek-a-boo genre trope that so many have denounced it as and more of a really challenging, thoughtful work.


  1. Great write-up here, I couldn't agree more. DiCaprio is quickly becoming a favorite of mine after this stellar performance and after I've re-watched some of his old work. I can't wait to see this one a second time this weekend.

    As well as the delusion, this is also one of his most emotionally powerful performances to date. Particularly the flashback scenes with Michelle Williams were some of the most emotional scenes I've seen in quite some time, and his head-to-head scene with Jackie Earle Haley also had a great emotional punch at the end of it.

  2. I haven't the foggiest idea why I didn't get into specifics about Leo's performance either in my review OR the podcast...but as I've thought back on it, holy hell is it scary good!

    It's rare that a lead character is in every. single. scene...and Leo carries the film well in that respect.

    I dig his work, but movies like this make me dig his work even more.

  3. The scene where Mark Ruffalo's Dr. Sheehan/Chuck character walks in and DiCaprio almost whispers, "what the hell's goin' on here?" is one of my favorite moments, I didn't want to get into it for people who hadn't seen it, though...

    And I think it's easy to overlook a performance in a film like this because it's such a genre/director's work.

    And now that I think about it, Leo looked pretty convincing in G.I. gear. How about a Marty war film to add to the resume...?

  4. Funny you should mention it - during the podcast Big Mike and recorded Mike said the exact same thing!

  5. Oh, really? Damn, I need to listen to it when I get the chance...

  6. If/when you do, leave me a comment and let me know what you think.