One Ugly Tie

[Spoilers below. Scroll past the screenshot to find spoiler free technical details]

Shutter Island shatters the American post-war ideal. The Cleavers, economic safety, that purity and stability. But no – it was an era of fear and paranoia where people lived in a world alongside nuclear reality. Plus, an existence where Nazis so willingly slaughtered millions. Shutter Island is frequently hopeless.

The three buildings on the isolated island imprison the mentally astray. They too exhibit fear; the cause often isn’t known. Shutter Island provides flashbacks for Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), giving wartime context. He liberated a concentration camp, saw bodies piled in snow, children included.

A decade later, Shutter Island is better with its twist known. Coming home from his service, Daniels turned to alcohol, smothering grisly images in a drunken haze. Around him, an American fantasy – again, Leave it to Beaver, punctuated with victory. Nazis were evil, no one else. We won. Then his unstable wife drowns their three children.

Shutter Island isn’t about the mystery


Daniels cannot accept the homefront could be just as cruel. In his effort to contort reality, he shielded himself in fantasy. Rather than shock treatments, Daniels is placed in an elaborate (even implausible) ruse designed to draw out truth and bury lies.

For most of Shutter Island, Daniels wants to escape. He doesn’t though, as if a small part of him knows he is a patient. This is the right place to be, because it’s safer than out there, across an ocean where people fight, murder, and betray. Unlike others who didn’t serve, Daniels witnessed truth and cruelty. People are far too capable at causing harm.

Treatment works on Daniels. He comes to accept, to remember, and to acknowledge what he saw (and did). He wakes up and admits his own wrong doing. Hours later, he slips back into fantasy. Shutter Island leaves doubt as to whether Daniels is being truthful. In being forced to relive his past, it’s likely Daniels faked his relapse knowing the lobotomy in his near future would erase the pain. If discharged, he’s no longer protected; Daniels knows he’s a killer, as are others. He leaves his control and free will to others.

Shutter Island’s “twist” is outwardly obvious. On reexamination though, that’s deliberate. People speaking to Daniels push this patient toward sanity, the clues meant to reveal layers methodically. Shutter Island isn’t about the mystery. Rather, it’s an intentionally guided path toward acceptance, breaking down the 50’s post-war actuality.

Video

Paramount debuts Shutter Island on 4K Blu-ray with a lacking transfer. Opening scenes struggle in resolving grain on the ship’s bow, likely an artifact forced by visual effects rather than compression. Brightness reaches reasonable levels with Dolby Vision’s touch, particularly vivid in flashbacks. Backlighting creates a pure glow, certainly clipping in spots, if with purpose.

Of more concern are black levels. Crush dominates Shutter Island. There’s something to say for the locations – the bowels of building C limit light, for example. However, this continues everywhere, making hard transitions to full black and eliminating potential detail. In this, Dolby Vision offers no improvement over the Blu-ray despite the possibility afforded by this format.

Finished at 2K, the boosted resolution does draw sharper imagery. Fidelity – in light, anyway – improves texture. Wide shots capturing the island in entirety resolve trees and old bricks without fault. Facial definition excels too. Flashbacks employ digital sharpening, but Shutter Island otherwise maintains a natural output. It’s not awful, rather a meager upgrade.

Audio

Yes, the DTS-HD 5.1 mix is the same as on the Blu-ray. That’s a bummer, yet this audio track excels with smart design. Volume is used to heighten specific sound effects, like shoes hitting a marble floor or rain hitting windows. It’s there to build Daniels’ battle with migraines aurally, utilizing wide dynamic range to enhance even little things.

Some rich action scenes push a storm into each speaker. Branches and trees fall as wind sweeps around. Bass drops to appropriate depth, accentuating danger. This also uses space to an advantage – the empty halls in building C echo expertly, whether footsteps or voices.

Extras

Although labeled a 10th anniversary special edition, the extras carry over from the prior Blu-ray, limited to two featurettes, totaling 37-minutes. These are well produced making-of efforts but limited.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Shutter Island
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Examining America’s post-war truth, Shutter Island smartly traps its lead character on an island where the only out is admitting reality.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 49 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: