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‘Shutter Island’ Blu-ray and DVD Review: Even Viewers Turn Psychological

April 28, 2010 - Film Reviews
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Average

Like it or hate it, then get haunted about the truth behind it.

Adding to Martin Scorcese’s brilliant filmography, “Shutter Island” carefully infuses the director’s artistic filmmaking style with a few commercial compromises. In so doing, he accomplishes his intention of building a disturbing atmosphere that lets the general viewer either go sane or insane, while deeply thinking: “What in the world actually happened?” In this key aspect, “Shutter Island” effectively captures its audience with a valuable concern over its distinctive and provocative subject matter. He mounts the Dennis Lehane novel of the same title into one motion picture opus.

There are a few miscalculations every now and then, including some continuity problems. Yet, these small technical and creative issues don’t greatly affect the bigger picture. Overall, the weaker parts are overcome by the film’s cinematic brilliance. Scorcese’s shots look very carefully planned. Without wasting any element in each scene, he provides significant value to every shot he makes.

Synopsis

Set in the 1950s, “Shutter Island” explores the story of U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels who gets assigned to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a female patient from Ashecliffe Hospital in the barren and remote Shutter Island. A former soldier with a violent past from his experiences in World War II, he also bears the trauma of being unable to save his wife and children from a fatal end. He dedicates himself with his work as a straight-up honest law enforcer and investigator. He knows there are concerns to deal with and issues to address in Shutter Island and he is determined to uncover the alleged illegal acts and inhuman experimentations on the criminally insane people inside the fortress-like asylum.

DVD and Blu-ray Releases

Like the usual technical specifications, Paramount’s “Shutter Island” DVD and Blu-ray copies are both in widescreen format with aspect ratio of 2:35:1. Aside from the Dolby mixes, subtitles and dubbed options are available in English, French, and Spanish (the Blu-ray copy also offers an additional Portuguese option). The DVD has an Enhanced Wide Screen Letterbox feature for TVs utilizing a 16:9 aspect ratio.

The “Shutter Island” DVD doesn’t have any special features in it. Clearly, the producers are turning their attention on the Blu-ray market as only the Blu-ray copy has special features. This direction obviously paves the way of the changing market as how the studios intend it. Or perhaps, the corporate minds are just seeking for more opportunities for profit by releasing another DVD with special features in a few months or so.

The DVD is not recommendable because it lacks pretty much everything else people want to see in a DVD. It is a given that the movie itself is the ultimate consideration when deciding to buy a home video copy of it. However, given such a lame packaging for a powerful, thinking man’s film created by a master filmmaker, it is such a disappointment to not even include a simple commentary track from Scorcese and other significant people from the production. This type of film targets a DVD audience who are very curious and interested about behind-the-scene information and filmmaker insights. For years, the DVD audience has been spoiled with interesting special features that even the not so marketable and the lamest movies get descent DVD sales against pirated copies through them.

The “Shutter Island” Blu-ray has the HD featurettes: Behind the Shutters (behind-the-scene video where the cast and director reveal secret clues hidden throughout Shutter Island); and Into the Lighthouse (Leonardo DiCaprio and Michelle Williams describe the depths they traveled to portray their characters and the history of the real-life mental hospital that inspired the story).

“Shutter Island” greatly benefits the HD charm of Blu-ray. Robert Richardson’s (The Aviator, Kill Bill) ace cinematography pops off the screen in 1080p resolution and MPEG-4 AVC video codec. The visuals impressively provide atmospheric textures, lighting, and dense coloring in a palette that jumps in between mysterious realism and hallucinatory complexity.

With a sound design and audio mix generally keeping up with the masterful visuals, the Blu-ray’s first-rate sound in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 matches the film’s sinister atmosphere, brilliant music, and the audaciously crisp dialogue.

The one disappointing aspect of the “Shutter Island” Blu-ray is that it features too little supplemental content. While the two featurettes are valuable and well-made, there are no commentary tracks, deleted scenes, and other significant special features the general audience would normally seek for.

With the scant special features, it’s almost clear that, like the initial DVD release, there may be another profitable Blu-ray release to come which may then be branded as something like: “Shutter Island” Blu-ray Special Edition.


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