Shutter Island – Plot Twists

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Warning; this article may contain spoilers. I’m not usually one for giving away plots in movies that others have yet to see.  I’m a pretty gullible movie-goer, and readily get drawn into the premise of a movie, happily suspending disbelief as each ridiculous device is deployed in order to take me down the director’s chosen path.  I gladly do this, rather than try to work out whodunit as I go along, cynically disregarding the traps set for the feeble-minded.  In the cinema, I’m content to be feeble-minded, as frankly I get to enjoy it more.  Physicists rarely enjoy the thrill of a white-knuckle roller coaster, simply because they understand only too well the forces at work.

So now I’m past the first paragraph, I can tell you that the only plot twist in the movie Shutter Island, is that there is a plot twist.  You can work the rest out for yourself (I’m not a complete idiot).  If someone had told me in advance that there was a “plot twist” (and raised their eyebrows up and down) before watching The Sixth Sense, I wouldn’t have gone through the whole bleeding film not suspecting that Bruce Willis was indeed dead himself (no, I didn’t get it till the end – I told you I was gullible).

So I saw Martin Scorcese being interviewed on Thursday by a very highbrow intellectual journalist, who gushed all over the director, and swooned at all the filmic references in the movie.  I was actually rather impressed with the depth of the interview, which prompted me to book tickets toute suite.  I was ready, nay fully prepared for my senses to be pummelled, for my brain to be spinning, and gasp in all the right places in this gripping modern classic.  Well I wasn’t gripped.  I wasn’t scared, intrigued or even kind of confused.  They said there would be a big twist in the plot, so I was expecting that, and more.  One twist would not have satisfied, as I knew it was coming; there had to be something else – a double bluff.  Nope, it turned out to be just the one mild and predictable single bluff, which had been flagged like a man walking in front, waving a big red flappy thing.  As the credits rolled, I thought where’s my extra twist, that can’t be it surely?  As we left the cinema, I could hear the rest of the audience mutter, “well I don’t know what that was all about” and “Is that it?”  No one said, that I could hear, “That was brilliant” or “Well I couldn’t see that coming”.

I’m not saying there is a mood for fooling us especially right now, as movie and TV makers have been dicking us around for decades.  Look at the TV series Cheers, with the “will they – won’t they” plot, 24 with Keifer Sutherland, or the pathetically and irredeemably twisty Lost.  However, at the very least Alfred Hitchcock did it with a bit of panache, and ensured that you truly were gripped, thrilled, and emotionally invested in the outcome.  In Shutter Island, despite throwing scenes of carnage at us, including child murder and piles of bodies at Dachau concentration camp, I remained totally uninvested in any character.

Save your money, and wait for Shutter Island on DVD.  Go see The Green Zone, I hear it has a terrific plot twist.

Which movies have you seen, that promise so much, yet delivered so little?

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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