Shutter Island

Okay, this one has a real big spoiler that will ruin the movie if you read this before seeing it. So beware. This is a detective thriller about a pair of federal marshals who come to an island used to imprison the criminally insane. Their goal is to find an escaped inmate who may be dangerous. The lead marshal is Teddy (DiCaprio), who has a past. In fact, this movie ends up as A Beautiful Mind, only ugly. As Teddy uncovers a conspiracy of covering up by the establishment, he is led to the belief that they are experimenting on people. It all turns out to be an elaborate act put on by the staff to try to help Teddy overcome his own self delusion protecting himself from facing the evil of his wife killing their children and then he killing her. It’s all very bleak and pomo nihilistic. Teddy snaps out of it for only a moment, but then drifts back into his delusion and ends up having to have a lobotomy to stop it. Of course, we all know now that lobotomies are barbaric. But when Teddy muses at the end, “Which would be worse, to live as a monster or die as a good man?” One moment in the film, an orderly has a debate with Teddy claiming that survival of the fittest and power of the weak over the strong is the only thing that is real, morality is just a social construct. I am not really sure what to make of this. It seems very hopeless and without redemption. Perhaps Scorsese thinks the unwillingness to face one’s moral accountability is destructive delusion. Or maybe he thinks monsters survive because they are not hampered by the self destructive notions of the conscience in the good man, which kills him. I don’t know. It’s all too confusing and unclear.