Book n Movie Review: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane/Martin Scorsese

Tuesday, January 18, 2011



She smiled darkly and shook her head. "I'm not crazy. I'm not. Of course what else would a crazy person claim? That's the Kafkaesque genius of it all. If you're not crazy but people have told the world you are, then all your protests to the contrary just underscore their point. Do you see what I'm saying?"

My very first introduction to Dennis Lehane was through the movie, Mystic River. At that point, I didn't know the movie was based on a book, but when I did come across the book many years later, I knew I had to read it. Now I have a huge tome of Mystic River staring at me every time I look at my shelf. It's not that I'm not keen on reading it, I'm terrified. One, because it's huge. Second, because I never really understood the movie, Mystic River, and had to read reviews and spoilers to actually know what it was about. I assume the book is the same. So instead, when I saw Shutter Island at an airport bookstore, after browsing through the shelves for 15 minutes (making me almost late for my boarding), I decided to risk it. At best, I'll enjoy it. At worst, I'll sleep.


Luckily, the best happened. I actually devoured it. Here's the first thing I noticed - Dennis Lehane's writing flows easy. There were no heavy-vocab crunching or roundabout phrases, which is the impression Mystic River the movie put into my head. Instead, I got pulled into this thriller right from page one and enjoyed it to the last page.

US Marshall Teddy Daniels arrives in Shutter Island along with his partner Chuck Aule to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from this inescapable fortress. Teddy is convinced that the place reeks of radical brain treatments and experimentation. What Chuck doesn't know is Teddy has his own personal vendetta to carry out and that getting out of the island may be harder than either of them expected. To add to their troubles, there's a vicious storm brewing and communications with the mainland has failed.

Even before I started, I knew there is a major twist in the ending, thanks to my wonderful friends who had to mince the movie ambiguities in my presence, when it first released. They were generous enough not to talk about the ending, but they dropped tantalizing hints about how awesome it was. When the twist came eventually, it still took me by surprise. Whatever I expected, it wasn't that. And when the ending of the ending came? I needed a cup of coffee to sort it out. Well no, I had to read the ending again to decide which side of the the ambiguity I wanted to be in.

I'm not generally a big fan of ambiguous endings, that is, if the ending is wide-open. One book that I read last year, One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni had an ending which could have gone either way. I certainly didn't appreciate that. On the other hand, books like Shutter Island, and movies like Memento and Inception, although having ambiguous endings, have plenty of hints strewn all over, which can be dissected in so many way to come up with plenty of theories. I don't mean to say I do that, but I enjoy reading the theories.

A week or two later, I watched Shutter Island at home, but since I knew what's happening, and what will happen, I didn't have to strain myself too much. Moreover, the movie stuck to the book's storyline religiously - the booklover in me immensely respected that. I do think however that the movie follows a slightly different theory at the end. That's my interpretation. I did like the movie take better, maybe because the character Teddy Daniels turned out the way I wanted him to. As for the movie itself, I thought it was really well-done. Leonardo DiCaprio as usual, was amazing, though I'm not sure he was the right person for this role. Even now, when I think of Teddy Daniels, I don't see him. But he certainly acted out that one emotional, very tragic scene towards the end of the movie really well. He captured the shock, denial and betrayal very succinctly.

This is another one of the book-movie pair I enjoyed. Most often, I prefer the book, but in this case, I can't choose a favorite. I enjoyed both!

I bought this book with my hard-earned money (and nearly missed my flight thanks to it).

18 comments:

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I agree with you. These two are pretty close to even. I listened to the book on audio, and I can't really remember if whether or not I thought the interpretations of the end were the same. This is one that I might revisit in print.

bermudaonion said...

I haven't seen the movie, but I read Mystic River and don't remember having any trouble understanding it. I'd like to read Shutter Island but don't think I could handle the creepiness of the movie.

Helen's Book Blog said...

It would not have occurred to me to read this book... too scary! But I am glad to hear it's so good. Maybe I'll add it to my summer reading list

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I like when movies stick to the story :) Great review :)

Kat said...

I watched the movie the other week, I really loved it. I haven't read the book yet, not sure I will if it's really similar to the movie.

Collect Dreams said...

I haven't read this,but I have read quite a lot of his other books, including Mystic River, and really loved them,and Shutter Island's on my list of movies to watch so now I'll have to get hold of the book too :-)

Aths said...

Nicole, I guess I was focusing too much attention to the ending of the movie, because I wanted to know if Scorsese introduces any more ambiguity in the end. I'll be curious to know what you think though!

Kathy, I didn't want to watch the movie either, but I think in the end, it turned out to be not-so-creepy. Maybe because I already knew what to expect?

Helen, you should! The book isn't too scary really. It's more thrilling.

Juju, me too! Thanks!

Kat, I heard many bloggers saying the movie sticks to the book storyline. Since I really wanted to sample Dennis Lehane's writing, I figured I could wait until I read the book. The movie was so awesome though, right?

Collect Dreams, After reading and loving this, I'm going to get hold of more of his books. I'm really looking forward to them.

christa @ mental foodie said...

Read Mystic River, thought it was good. Excited to watch the movie a couple of years later but didn't like it at all! I didn't remember much by then what the plot was, just remembered I enjoyed the book. Boy, was it slow and boring!

Agree with you on all points about shutter island movie, though I wish it was a bit faster paced. Still don't see Leo as Teddy. While I was blown away by the book's ending (didn't see it coming), now that I read other reviews of the movie about the ending, I actually like the extra twist (I didn't catch the extra twist if I didn't read the others' theory... guess I was too sleepy to figure it out lol).

I think Gone, Baby Gone is another movie/book by the same author, but hadn't watched/read it.

Care said...

I think you will find that Mystic River the book will fly! It did for me. I saw the movie first and enjoyed it ('cept Laura Linney's accent didn't work for me). I do want to read Shuter Island - I only thought that movie OK. dennis Lehane is a great writer for fast-paced thrillers,

Devi said...

Hey Aths ..i totally love reading your posts...though i never got a chance to leave a comment!
I have watched all the movies mentioned in this post but somehow never felt like picking up these books,but Ur post has given me the push to pick up "mystic river"..

Keep writing girly :)

Molly said...

I have wanted to do this kind of paired review ever since I saw the movie last spring. I rarely go to the movies, and even more rarely do I watch a movie prior to reading the book, but that is exactly what happened with this particular story.

I have the book sitting on my shelves (I think I bought it the day after seeing the movie) - but have yet to make time to read it.

You have inspired me to get it off the shelf and at least move it to the nightstand :)

Tiptress said...

I was just about to buy shutter island. I liked the movie but when you like the movies you hate the book. then when you love the book you hate the movie!! But I will try it!

Aths said...

Christa, I found the movie Mystic River really slow too.. maybe because I couldn't get the hang of it. :) Gone, Baby, Gone is on my must-read list!

Care, I'm glad to hear that the book Mystic River is fast paced! Now I'm more than eager to read it!

Devi, you should read Mystic River, girl! Even I should read it, lol! Glad that you're following my blog! :)

Molly, I try not to watch a movie before reading it either.. it so spoils the book for me. :( I hope you read it though, it's a great book!

Tiptress, you said it right about the love-one-hate-other between books and movies. It's true in most cases for me, too.

Lisa said...

I really wanted to see this movie. But I wanted to read the book first. But I didn't have time to do that last year. Then I made the terrible mistake of getting caught up in watching the last half hour of the movie on tv one night. Now I can't imagine a reason to watch the rest of it or read the book.

Sarah@Wicked Tickets Broadway said...

Very nice and interesting to read.

Athira / Aths said...

I agree!

Five-Eyed Bookworm said...

Shutter Island was one of my favorite movies and while I know that a book existed with the same title, I never had the chance to read it. I might now after reading your review. I just have to get past all the challenges and other TBR books in my lists :) I'm so glad the movie remained faithful to the book. That's always good in my books :)

Athira / Aths said...

What I loved about the book and the movie was that their endings are slightly different. Both are open-ended but they both go in two different directions. That kind of thing usually bugs me but in this case, it was such a clever idea!