Film / Shutter Island

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The 2010 Film of the Book of Shutter Island. It was adapted by Martin Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels, Mark Ruffalo as Chuck Aule, and Ben Kingsley as Dr. Cawley.


The movie contains examples of

  • Adult Fear: Your wife drowning your kids would certainly count. And your daughter takes the form of your guilty conscience...
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Andrew's wife crosses into this territory after she drowns her children.
    • Several patients obviously fit the bill, most notably Peter Breen, Rachel Solando (at first), various patients at C Block, and Andrew Laeddis.
    • Implied with The Warden when he gives a little speech to Teddy about violence while giving him a lift. The Warden seems suspiciously amused, and insists he knows Teddy and that he's a violent as they come. Subverted when it turns out the warden's just messing with a troublesome patient.
  • Bad Dreams: Teddy has several dreams hinting at his Dark and Troubled Past. Mostly involving his daughter telling him he should have saved their family.
  • Berserk Button: Reminding Teddy that he is Andrew Laeddis causes him to become physically violent towards the patients.
  • Big "NO!": Teddy gets a pretty good one.
  • Blast Out: Subverted. At the end, Teddy shoots and apparently kills Dr Cawley, but when he turns the gun on Sheehan, the camera cuts back to Cawley, unshot and unharmed.
  • Bungled Suicide: The commandant of Dachau concentration camp in Daniels' flashback tried to shoot himself, but failed and took an hour to die. Daniels moved the gun away to prolong his suffering by preventing a second attempt.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Subverted. Teddy Daniels is on Shutter Island not only for a missing person's case, but to find Andrew Laeddis, the man responsible for Daniels's wife's death.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Teddy has a few thanks to his haunting nightmares.
  • The Conspiracy: Teddy believes there is one in Shutter Island's Ashecliffe Hospital starting with the disappearance of Rachel Solando and going further down to them involving Nazi experiments of the human mind. Subverted, this is only a fake reality Andrew Laeddis has made up for himself and that his doctors are trying to prove isn't real.
  • Despair Event Horizon: see Gory Discretion Shot.
  • Determinator: Teddy Daniels is very determined to find answers on Shutter Island. This trope is actually Deconstructed because it's actually Andrew Laeddis refusing to accept reality.
  • Driven to Madness: Subverted. They're actually trying to cure his madness. Played straight in that what happened to his wife and children really did make him crack before the start of the story.
  • Dr. Psych Patient: Inverted, in that it's the protagonist who turns out to be a delusional patient, not the people he meets at the asylum.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The ending revealed that everything about the film was a delusion of Laeddis'.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Subverted. As of the end of the film, Dr. Cawley has gotten Teddy/Andrew to snap out of his madness twice. Neither time stuck. The movie ending somewhat suggests that Andrew is really cured, but is so guilt ridden about what he had done that he pretends to have regressed back to the Teddy Daniels fantasy so they will lobotomize him, and his last line in particular implies that he knows.
  • Eye Scream:
    • 'If I sink my teeth into your eye right now do you think you can stop me before I blind you?'
    • The description of a lobotomy, which is very strongly implied to be the lead character's fate. A real lobotomy doesn't actually damage the eyeball, as this is gently pushed sideways to clear a path to the orbital fissures at the rear of the eye-socket. Still extremely creepy.
  • Failure-to-Save Murder: Andrew feels he let his children die because he didn't get help for his wife earlier, and as a result has nightmares of his daughter telling him he should have saved all of them.
  • Fire/Water Juxtaposition: As symbolism for the juxtaposition between delusion and reality. While Teddy is having delusions about who Andrew Laeddis is and how his wife died, fire is a prevalent theme. But reality, which is that his wife drowned their three children, becomes more apparent when you consider Teddy's discomfort with water.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "You can't just choose to be sane."
    • Also how Andrew (then believing himself to be Teddy) utilized matches to see in Ward C, after having told Sheehan (as Chuck) that Laeddis was a fire bug. This is arguable, as obviously he had to use something to see in the nearly-pitch-black ward, but it's heavily inferrable based on how much attention the movie pays to Andrew lighting each match.
    • In addition, Teddy told his partner that his wife was killed by smoke from a fire. A constant habit of his is smoking. Another arguable point, as it is the fifties, and smoking was encouraged at the time.
    • Or it could be a sign of Teddy's delusions. One of the realities he so desperately wants to avoid is that his wife drowned their three children. Water is the opposite of fire in the same way that reality is the opposite of delusion. Each scene where fire shows up, "Teddy" is actively having delusions. When water shows up, he is more actively being forced to confront reality.
    • Smoke from a fire could have also been referring to the smoke from his gun, as shown when he hallucinates shooting it. Some films from that time period have similar lines
    • Chuck has a hard time taking off his gun when they first enter the facility. Any lawman would be able to take it off as quickly as Teddy.
    • Shortly after arriving on the island, Teddy decides to quit the investigation early on due to Cawley refusing to meet his requests, threatening to file a report of the investigation, but at this point he stammers, because he's not quite certain who it is he reports to, since he only was a marshal. Chuck has to finish the sentence for him, and since he knows about FBI, he goes for "Hoover's boys".
    • Teddy is quick to notice the facility has an electrified fence, and seems to instantly work out that Peter Breen can't handle the sound of a pencil scratching on paper. It's not just Teddy working these things out. It's Teddy remembering these things due to spending two years at Shutter Island.
    • Several members of the hospital staff are actually seen completely breaking character in-universe, in front of Teddy, yet the place already feels so weird that one doesn't pay attention. This includes, but is not limited to :
      • on the rocks, the guards are not even looking for Rachel, they just sit and wait for Teddy and Chuck to move along.
      • when they interrupt the Board of Overseers, Naehring and two doctors make fun of Teddy's recurring delusions.
      • when they enter Ward C, a guard just tells them it's a scary place, then runs away laughing.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Most assuredly not always present, but still packs a wallop at the ending, with the "peaceful" shot of the lighthouse. The previous scene makes clear what will happen to Laeddis there.
  • Herr Doctor: Played with. Dr. Naehring is undeniably German (although played by a legendary Swede), but his accent is much lighter than required by the trope.
  • Hero Antagonist: Dr. Cawley. He seems really sad and regretful when he has to admit his own defeat.
  • Homage: The film is absolutely crawling with them, in particular Alfred Hitchcock/Vertigo.
  • "I Know You Are in There Somewhere" Fight: Nearly the entire film is one, on the part of Dr Cawley. He fails. Or does he?
  • I Know You Know I Know: A somewhat meta-example; any sufficiently Genre Savvy viewer should be able to spot the obvious twist a mile away, but the way the film plays out makes one constantly question whether or not that's just what the filmmakers want you to expect.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. Along with the dead children at Dachau, Rachel Solando killed her three children by drowning them and by extension, so did Dolores.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "Why are you all wet, baby?"
    • "I gotta get off this rock, Chuck."
  • Literal Metaphor: While venturing through Ward C, Teddy encounters George Noyce, with a big scar across his face. When Teddy asks who did this to him, Noyce said "You did". Dr Cawley later explains that it was meant literally - "Teddy" beat up Noyce after he called him Laeddis.
  • Lobotomy: During the course of US Marshall Teddy Daniels's investigation into the titular mental institution, the procedure is mentioned as one method used to "cure" violent inmates that have proven otherwise unable to be helped. After a few Plot Twists and meetings with Andrew Laeddis and Rachel it is held as a threat against Daniels in his attempts to escape the island. Finally, after The Reveal, The whole plot is revealed as an elaborate set-up to give Daniels, who is actually Laeddis committed to the asylum after killing his wife because she murdered their children in her own insanity, one last chance to cure himself. He experiences My God, What Have I Done? and chooses to maintain the fantasy, knowing that it will mean death or worse, and undergo the procedure.
  • Manly Tears: Teddy sheds these a lot, to the point of being The Woobie.
  • Mockspiracy: US Marshall Teddy Daniels investigates the disappearance of a patient from the remote mental clinic, Ashecliffe Hospital. As the investigation continues, he finds that the hospital staff are hiding something from him, and suspects that the head doctor is conducting horrible experiments on unwilling patients. In reality, "Teddy Daniels" is actually Andrew Laeddis, a patient at that same hospital. The only experiment happening is the doctors indulging Laeddis's delusions of investigating a conspiracy, in hopes that Laeddis would realize the truth and be cured after his fantasy played out to the end.
  • Motive Decay: Teddy Daniels keeps changing the reasons for his investigation. Initially he arrived at Ashecliffe to investigate Rachel Solando's disappearance but then he tells Chuck that the real reason was another inmate who he holds responsible for the death of his wife. From there he becomes obsessed with a massive conspiracy at Ashecliffe to suppress and cover up the truth and plans to expose the operation to the public. This later gets explained as a symptom of his insanity, his lack of clarity impairs him to truly know his real self and his actual goals, so he has to constantly change and alter his circumstances.
  • Mr. Exposition: Dr. Cawley's wordy explanation of what was really going on.
  • Mr. Imagination: Teddy Daniels thinks he's in an investigation solving the case of a lost patient while seeking revenge against Andrew Laeddis for killing his wife. He actually is Andrew Laeddis and is a patient at Shutter Island.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: The Warden.
    • Although considering that by the point in the movie where we first meet the warden was when Andrew was coming off the Chlorazapine and obviously hallucinating, we don't really know if that conversation actually happened or was simply a part of Andrew's delusion.
    • Not to mention he could just be venting his frustrations with the guy he's talking to, who is the most violent and dangerous patient he's ever had to deal with.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Teddy violently does this to a patient in Ward C. He also gave one to George Noyce because he called him Laeddis, and Dr. Cawley tells Andrew he's the most violent patient they have.
  • Offing the Offspring: Andrew's wife, Dolores, killed their three children as a result of her psychosis. It forms a central part of Andrew's guilt complex and resulting delusions, as he very much blames himself for their deaths as he believes that he could have prevented the whole thing if he only had paid more attention to Dolores' deteriorating sanity and gotten her professional help in time.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: As we later learn, Laeddis' delusions led him to completely misunderstand what George Noyce was talking about.
    • "It's about you and Laeddis. That's all it's ever been about", implying that "it" was about Daniels vs. Laeddis, as opposed to: "It's about you. And, Laeddis, that's all it's ever been about", implying that Daniels is Laeddis and everything was focused around him.
  • Papa Wolf: Laeddis kills his wife after she goes Ax-Crazy and murders their children.
  • Post-Historical Trauma: The film actually deconstructs Film Noir of The '50s by dealing with the subtext of post-war trauma and wider social tragedy that came out of WWII. Andrew/Teddy was a soldier in the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp and participated in a real life massacre of surrendering Nazi soldiers, a crime that, Truth in Television, was suppressed by the Allied Authorities until being de-classified decades later.
  • Prefers The Illusion: While it appears that the doctor's efforts at curing the main character of his massive defensive delusions have ultimately failed, the final line may imply that it didn't fail. Instead, he deliberately maintained the act in order to be lobotomized, and forget everything anyway.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Downplayed in a scene where we swiftly see a prison inmate using his blood to write something on the cell wall.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Teddy served in Europe during World War II and took part in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. The whole experience, especially the horrors he witnessed in Dachau took quite their toll on his psyche and drove him to become The Alcoholic for a while after he returned from service. What exactly happened during the liberation of Dachau are put a bit into question after The Reveal that Teddy is actually Andrew, but it is clear that whatever it was, it undeniably made quite the impression on Andrew, seeing how horrifying Nazi experiments form a central part of his delusion.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: It turns out Teddy Daniels and the investigation is a fake persona created by Andrew Laeddis to hide the truth that he murdered his mentally ill wife after she murdered their children. As a patient, Laeddis has been living a fake reality to run away from the truth. In the end, he pretends to have regressed as he decides that he would rather be lobotomized, in his words, "die a good man" rather than continue to "live as a monster".
  • Shown Their Work: The massacre of surrendering Nazi Soldiers by Americans at the Liberation of Dachau? It actually did happen. The incident was covered up by the military and it wasn't admitted officially till the 90s.
  • Significant Anagram: Four of them, hence the "Rule of Four." Edward Daniels/Andrew Laeddis, and Rachel Solando/Dolores Chanal.
  • Terrifying Pet Store Rat: A whole swarm of rats on the cliffside, which seem curious but not at all hostile.
  • There Are No Coincidences: Chuck lampshades that Teddy being called for an investigation to the island where George Noyce (a past acquaintance) is being held sounds too much like a Contrived Coincidence. Chuck who is actually Dr. Sheehan is trying to expose Andrew's made up reality.
  • There Are No Therapists: Completely, utterly inverted. The whole island is orchestrating a therapy session to play along with the main character's delusions to see if he can resolve his own internal conflicts without help. They are trying to simulate a There Are No Therapists scenario.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Carried over from the novel. Teddy spends the whole movie chasing after Andrew Laeddis, the man who killed his wife. Near the end it's revealed that he is Laeddis, and invented the Teddy Daniels persona so that he wouldn't have to deal with the guilt of shooting his wife after she drowned their children in a lake. He's been a patient at the hospital for the last two years.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Why do we keep spoiling Daniels's insanity, guys?
  • Twist Ending: A truly nasty one, too.
  • U.S. Marshal: Two U.S. Marshals, Edward "Teddy" Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, travel Shutter Island, as part of an investigation into the disappearance of patient Rachel Solando.
  • Verbal Business Card: "My name is EDWARD DANIELS!!"(twice). Later: "My name is Andrew Laeddis, and I murdered my wife in the spring of 'fifty-two."
  • Weapon Stomp: Done very nastily. The Nazi reaching for the gun had blown his cheek off in a suicide attempt and was lying on the floor bleeding out. He reached for his dropped gun to try again, only to have the protagonist step on it and drag it away.)
  • Wham Line:
    • "You don't have a partner, Daniels. You came alone."
    • "Your name is Andrew Laeddis. The sixty-seventh patient at Ashecliffe? He's you, Andrew."
    • "Your children, Andrew, your children!"
    • "Honey?... Where are the kids?" "They're at school." "...It's Saturday. School's not open on Saturday." "My school is."
  • Windmill Crusader: The main character.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech:
    Teddy: Which would be worse? To live as a monster, or die as a good man?
  • You Are What You Hate: Teddy Daniels doesn't sympathize for the patients because in most cases they've committed murder. In reality, he killed his wife and confesses he is a monster who would rather die a good man in the final scene.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/ShutterIsland