In 2006, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed finally garnered the Academy Award recognition the legendary director he had so long deserved. But if the praise and recognition it garnered meant that many thought that his next effort might also be in contention, come Oscar season, Shutter Island will have about as much chance at the award show as a run of the mill horror film, something it certainly is not.
The film was originally intended to be released in North America on October 2nd, 2009, however Paramount pushed the film back to February 19th 2010. With the original release date of October 2nd 2009, the film would be an assumed competitor in the 2010 Oscars. The cast which includes Oscar winners and nominees such as Max von Sydow, Leonardo DiCaprio, Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley, all gave Oscar-worthy performances.
But months before its release, Paramount Studios announced the film would be pushed back to February as it did not have the $60 million budget needed to promote an awards film such as this one. The studio’s decision raised concerns about the quality of the film due to the fact that February is “an in between” month for film. The best of the year typically get a release in the fall and early winter months while the blockbusters get summer releases. January and February are the months when studios dump films in which they have little faith.
When the film premiered, many critics dismissed it as lesser Scorsese without looking at the film in depth as it deserved.
Without spoiling the film, its plot features a major twist near the end which many critics saw as lazy filmmaking. This twist, along with the fact the film is a psychological thriller with tinges of horror left many feeling that Scorsese was just a director-for-hire on this picture.
The use of the term “lesser Scorsese” in relation to Shutter island has always bothered me as in this film we see a true master of his craft in full form. It is a film which not only works the second time around, but is almost more satisfying the second viewing. A lesser director would not have layered the film in such a way which allows it to play as almost a completely different film the second time around.
Its February release and the fact it is considered “lesser” Scorsese takes away almost any chance of this film getting Oscar attention and raises several important issues with the Academy Awards. One issue is the timing of a film’s release, as film distributors are forced to distribute their films in a short time span due to the assumption of voters’ short memory span. The other issue relates to the Academy’s almost systematic snubbing of most any film that is not a straight drama.
Shutter Island is a unique film in that the first time around it plays as a psychological thriller where as the second time it plays as almost a straight drama. However, critics’ dismissal of the film made it less likely for people to revisit the film to discover the fantastically layered piece of cinema by one of the true master filmmakers of our time.
With Oscar-worthy performances from each of its cast members, specifically the incredible performance from Leonardo DiCaprio and Scorsese’s direction, it is a true shame that this film has almost zero chance come Oscar season. While Scorsese is certainly no stranger to Oscar snubs, Shutter Island is a film which many looked past, but should have looked at much more closely.