Shutter Island (Blu-ray) (2010)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 15-Jun-2010

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Featurette-Behind the Shutters (in HD - 17:11)
Featurette-Into the Lighthouse (in HD - 21:11)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 138:04
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Martin Scorsese

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Mark Ruffalo
Ben Kingsley
Max Von Sydow
Michelle Williams
Emily Mortimer
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $39.95 Music Robbie Robertson

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (4608Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     I remember watching the trailer for this film at the cinema in May, 2009. My reaction at the time was one of eager expectation; the trailer looked promising because the film looked mysterious, had action and was a thriller. It also featured a strong supporting cast behind lead actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo in Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch and Elias Koteas. The original theatrical release date was October, 2009, so imagine my shock when I learnt that the film was to be pushed back to February, 2010. It didn't make any sense, especially as a February release date would preclude the film from nominations at the 2009 Academy Awards held in March, 2010. So what happened?

     Blaming the fallout from the global financial crisis of late 2008 and its subsequent recession, Paramount Pictures knew they had a critical and financial hit that required a large marketing budget, but they did not have the $US50-$US60 million they needed in 2009. Also, they figured that since Silence of Lambs was released in the month of February and it still won the Academy Award for Best Picture 12 months later, then the award nomination/s would have to wait 12 months for Shutter Island also, especially now that the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences has increased the amount of Best Picture nominations from five to ten per year (an obvious marketing move to promote potential Best Picture winners).

     Paramount Pictures had originally pitched this film as a Wolfgang Petersen vehicle, until script re-writes from screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis based on Dennis Lehane's original 2003 novel made the film more action-orientated. Then David Fincher and Brad Pitt were slated to take on the project until they had to take on other film commitments. Coincidentally, actors Mark Ruffalo, John Carroll Lynch and Elias Koteas also appeared in David Fincher's 2007 film, Zodiac.

     U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) travel by ferry to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Ashecliff Hospital, a mental hospital for the criminally insane located on the Shutter Island off the coast of Massachusetts. The missing patient, Rachel Solando (played by Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson), a widow who drowned her three young children, has vanished from the hospital, past guards and without shoes and is considered dangerous. Teddy believes that Rachel may have had help in her escape, a notion that the head psychiatrist Dr. John Cawley (Ben Kingsley) denies. When Cawley is unable to hand over the personnel files of staff at the hospital, Teddy and Chuck are forced to investigate both the institution and the island on which it is situated. In doing so, they begin to unravel a potential national conspiracy.

     The film shifts from a traditional "whodunit" mystery to an exploration of the psychology of trauma upon the soul, and we the viewers are led upon this discovery subtly, almost without realising it. This is the key to why the film will keep your attention until the end and why it is another solid film in Martin Scorsese's career.

     For those familiar with Dennis Lehane's bestselling 2003 novel (he also wrote Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone which have also undergone movie adaptations) Martin Scorsese and Laeta Kalogridis have remained faithful to the events of the novel except for some dialogue at the end of the film. In the novel Teddy says, "I don't know, Chuck. You think they're onto us?" Chuck replies: "Nah. We're too smart for that." In the film this is adapted to Teddy adding, "This place makes me wonder". Chuck replies, "What's that?" Teddy says, "whether it is better to die a good man, or live as a monster." The added dialogue adds a further dimension to the twist in the film, and of course it will make much more sense to you once you watch it.

     Shutter Island became Scorsese's and DiCaprio's (in films they have done together) largest box-office weekend opening, taking in $US40 million. Made with a production budget of $US80 million, it has gone on to gross $US293 million, making it Scorsese's largest grossing film worldwide.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


     The cinematography reveals a wide spectrum of beautifully shot sequences, ranging from dark, shadowy scenes in the wards, to grey and misty scenes near the lighthouse and cliffs, to the freezing and driving rain of an impending storm, to the serenity of the lush, green grounds of the mental hospital. Two-time Academy Award winner for Best Cinematography (for Oliver Stone's JFK and Martin Scorsese's The Aviator), Robert Richardson, I believe will most likely get a consecutive Academy Award nomination for his photography on Shutter Island after getting nominated in 2009 for Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.

     The aspect ratio is 2:35:1, encoded with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 codec, 16x9 enhanced.

     The video transfer to Blu-ray is stunning. The average bitrate of the film is 27.63 m/b per sec. As mentioned, the strength of the transfer lies in its wide range of scenery, including incredible detail in dark, low-light scenes requiring matches for light in comparison to bright scenes with well-lit interiors and exteriors which are not over-exposed.

     Blacks in the film reflect the noir elements of the plot. The white and grey dreary look of the hospital wards is captured to perfection and the rich, luscious green of the hospital grounds is extraordinarily life-like. Dr. Cawley's personal quarters, shot in slightly dimmed light to highlight browns, yellows and reds reflects an opulent, Civil War grand room which is entirely different to the bleak hospital wards. Overall, the wide range of scenic interior and exterior environments will leave the viewer not knowing where they are, which enhances the mysteriousness of the main story.

     Shot on 35mm anamorphic film, Shutter Island does have a minute level of background film grain. The only criticism I can level at the video transfer are the computer-generated backgrounds which sometimes look a tad out-of-place, but since the film is set in the 1950s, and that was an era synonymous with basic rear-projection effects in movies, perhaps this was creatively intentional.

     Subtitles are provided in English (SDH), Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, Norwegian and Swedish.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Paramount's use of the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio codec in its recent Blu-ray releases has reflected a growing trend by Blu-ray manufacturers to not include lossless Dolby TrueHD tracks. After listening to the main soundtrack on Shutter Island it's not hard to understand why Paramount have moved on from the Dolby lossless standard codec.

     The main soundtrack is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track encoded at 4725 kbps. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 dub and an English Audio Descriptive Dolby Digital 5.1 track are also available. Both these tracks are encoded at 640 kbps.

     Dialogue is clear and synchronised, although some scenes do contain ambiguous conversation. Due to the nature of the plot, this may be a deliberate creative device.

     The film does not contain an original score. Instead, Scorsese used his friend and collaborator Robbie Robertson to create a soundtrack utilising previously recorded elements.

     Surround channel usage is not overstated in this audio transfer, excepting for storm and chase sequences. Rather, we get more subtle and detailed environmental tones which is more in keeping with a traditional thriller-genred film. The subwoofer is likewise not overused. It does come into its own in the same way the audio mix of the main soundtrack is geared towards a subtle and intriguing mystery/thriller.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Behind the Shutters (in HD - 17:11)

     Do not watch these extras until you have watched the movie! A warning is presented before each of the extras stating that major plot spoilers are contained in both featurettes. The main actors of the cast reflect on working with Scorsese as a director while author Dennis Lehane discusses how he came about to writing the novel of Shutter Island. Martin Scorsese discusses the unique musical soundtrack put together by his friend, Robbie Robertson, and the challenge he had in shooting extras in scenes to ensure the film has a maximum 'repeat-viewing' value when released on DVD and Blu-ray.

Into the Lighthouse (in HD - 21:11)

     This featurette focuses on the changes to psychiatric care in the 1950s, with a move away from psycho-surgery techniques such as lobotomising patients towards psycho-pharmacy treatments with the introduction of chlorpromazine in 1954. (Interestingly, this fact would present an unintentional anachronism when the chlorpromazine treatment is mentioned as been taken by a patient in the movie for two years. The events of the film are set in 1954.) Dr. James Gilligan, a past director of Massachusetts' prison mental hospital, served as a technical advisor on Shutter Island, helping the main actors to maintain an authentic performance in their roles. The 50-page Shutter Island production notes available on the internet here quotes Dr. Gilligan thus, "we worked together to make sure the story reflected a true war that was going on in the mid-20th century within the psychiatric community: a war between those clinicians who wanted to treat these patients with new forms of psychotherapy, education and medicine, and those who regarded the violent mentally ill as incurable and advocated controlling their behavior by inflicting irreversible brain damage, including indiscriminate use of shock treatment and crude forms of brain surgery, such as lobotomies". The cast and crew add their thoughts on the changes to psychological treatments mentioned in the movie during the time that the film is set in the 1950s.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    At the time of the writing of this review, Shutter Island has been released with a Region Free ABC video and audio transfer on Blu-ray in the United States, Germany and Australia with identical extras. It is anticipated that forthcoming releases in France and the United Kingdom will have the same specifications as the aforementioned US, German and Australian releases.


     I must admit that I'm a little disappointed that Shutter Island continues the tradition of Scorsese's previous effort, The Departed, on Blu-ray which also contained minimal extras. In comparison to my copies of the Region 4 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 2-disc Ultimate Edition of Taxi Driver or the outstanding MGM 2-disc Region 1 Special Edition of Raging Bull on DVD, I know what value the consumer can derive from previous stacked releases of Scorsese's films onto DVD.

     Despite the lack of extras, Shutter Island boasts a great video and audio transfer, with an engaging plot which will demand repeat-viewing.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Friday, June 25, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE