Even after all these years, Shutter Island is still an essential viewing for fans of suspenseful psychological thrillers. This, even though it remains one of Martin Scorsese’s most controversial films, mostly because of its ending, which continues to spark controversy.
Like any good horror film, Shutter Island uses its noir backdrop and score to make the audience suspect something is wrong at Ashecliffe Hospital right from the start. The book of the same name is written by Dennis Lehane. However, Shutter Island may be enjoyed again and again because the intricacies of the relationship between U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) hint at some of the story’s unexpected developments.
What Happens at the End of Shutter Island?
It becomes clear after spending a few days solving crimes with Teddy and Chuck that our protagonist’s mental health is rapidly declining; the only remaining question is whether this is due to the plotting of Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) or Teddy’s problematic history. However, with Teddy’s hallucinations becoming worse by the minute, Shutter Island expertly crafts its tone in such a way that the audience is unable to fully commit to one side.
Teddy does acknowledge that the murder of his wife by an arsonist (Andrew Laeddis), who is reportedly incarcerated at the Shutter Island institution, left him scarred, but he never brings up the fact that they were parents. Dolores (Michelle Williams), his wife, appears in his nightmares and flashbacks after her death. The audience gets a glimpse of a lake that is important to their tale, but largely, Dolores begs him not to continue solving the riddle.
After Teddy finally comes to terms with the fact that his imagination is playing tricks on him, he sets out to save Chuck from the perilous lighthouse. However, he soon encounters Dr. Cawley, who is calmly waiting for his scheme to work out. No, Teddy is a patient at Ashecliffe, as Cawley tells him; he killed his wife and drowned their children during a manic episode; and he has been there for two years.
The memories of his children are what finally convinces Andrew Laeddis, better known as Teddy, to confess that he murdered his wife. To reawaken his mind, Chuck, who is revealed to be his psychiatrist at Ashecliffe, sets up a complex simulation. Andrew seems to revert to his Teddy character, even if he becomes more aware towards the end. He then asks Dr. Sheehan if it’s better “to live as a monster or to die as a nice man.
Despite Shutter Island making it clear that Teddy/Andrew is disconnected from reality, the last line and Dr. Sheehan’s unsuccessful attempt to summon Teddy to leave it to everyone to decide whether Leonardo DiCaprio’s character voluntarily chooses to have a lobotomy as a means to escape the shame and pain caused by his tragedy.
Are There Clues To Shutter Island’s Ending?
Even though both the book and movie conclude in the same way, Lehane’s writing lacks the ambiguity in Andrew’s last remarks. Scorsese and screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis included this in Shutter Island, but the author frames it as the protagonist’s brief moment of clarity just before his lobotomy appointment.
The attitude of Ashecliffe’s guards, orderlies, and other patients is just one of several instances like this that occur throughout the film. Shutter Island, in particular, has numerous hints that hint at the denouement. Another example is Teddy’s bizarre chat with the warden of Ashecliffe, as well as his rejection of Chuck’s conclusive evidence that identifies patient 67.
Certainly, more scope and creativity are required for narrative points such as the anagrams concealed under the rule of fours that Teddy and Chuck discover in Rachael Solando’s room. On the other hand, Chuck’s careless handling of his government-issued gun is probably the most glaring clue on Shutter Island.
Despite its commercial success, Scorsese’s Shutter Island remains one of his critically panned films. Some fans even go so far as to question the film’s official ending, believing that Ashecliffe is a sinister facility housing human experimentation.
With the film’s further twist of keeping Andrew’s actual sanity up for discussion, Shutter Island’s Teddy Daniels solidifies its position as one of the most unreliable narrators in cinematic history. This additional twist is better executed than American Psycho’s take on its source work, regardless of whether Lehane prefers his ending or not.
Where Can I Watch Shutter Island?
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“Shutter Island” endures as a thought-provoking exploration of psychological turmoil, leaving audiences grappling with its haunting narrative and the complexities of its protagonist’s mind. The film’s enduring appeal lies in its ability to provoke discussion and contemplation long after the credits roll.