THIS winter in LA it has been raining, as we used to say in high school, like a mofo, and every times the heavens open I think of the upcoming Martin Scorsese film, Shutter Island. The film, which opens on Friday the 19th, is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane that is so gripping, so full of twists and turns, that it almost ruined a vacation last summer since I kept retreating to the basement to read it. (Much of the film takes place in pouring rain and driving winds, as this isle in Boston Harbor is hit with a hurricane.)
So it was a rare pleasure to see that the director was able to adapt the novel faithfully AND to turn out a kickass film that is also a showcase of great acting -- Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Clarkson, Ben Kingsley and Max Von Sydow in addition to a strong Leo DiCaprio in a complicated role.
Here is my piece from Sunday's LA Times, which comes mostly from an interview I did out here with Scorsese and conversations with Lehane and DiCaprio. Meeting the director was a real thrill, it was fun to go down tangents about his own work -- long conversation about The Last Waltz, which weirdly was the first of his films I ever saw -- as well as subjects like film noir and the work of Samuel Fuller.
The film is in some ways a departure for the director, and it may be too grounded in genre for his following and not gory enough for the horror-movie fans that are the film's natural audience. (And its move to the dead of February will not be good for the box office or Oscar noms.)
Here is a sidebar about the films he shows his cast and crew so they have a common vocabulary of film references. "We would watch one or two movies," DiCaprio told me, "just to capture the tone of a specific scene."
"I'm not very good on plot," Scorsese told me. "I prefer character and mood, and atmosphere and music."
As for the plot of the novel and film, the less said the better. But see it.