Shutter Island is a 2003 novel by Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River and The Given Day and a writer on The Wire.In 1954, US Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule are assigned to investigate the disappearance of multiple murderess Rachel Solando, who is a patient at Shutter Island's Ashecliffe Hospital, a mental hospital for the most violent of the criminally insane. It is revealed that Andrew Laeddis, the man responsible for Daniels's wife's death, is incarcerated there as well.As the marshals investigate further, they begin to uncover hints that Ashecliffe Hospital may be home to a living nightmare of Nazi-esque experimentation on unwilling patients.But of course, all is not as it seems...The novel was adapted into a movie by Martin Scorsese in 2010, with Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels, Mark Ruffalo as Chuck Aule, and Ben Kingsley as Dr. Cawley.Perhaps one of the most heavily symbolic novels/films in years, to the extent that it will screw with your mind HARD.
All Germans Are Nazis: Teddy automatically assumes that the German doctor working in the asylum is some kind of Josef Mengele, continuing his experiments on American soil. Teddy's paranoia about Germans turns out to have a comprehensible source — he was present at the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. After the Allied soldiers saw what had been done to the prisoners, they put all the guards up against a wall and summarily executed them (an actual event).
Teddy Daniels:We're federal marshals on a federal facility. That's the authorization of God Himself. We don't answer to you. We don't explain to you. We can choose to shoot you in the dick, boy, and there's not a court in the country that would even hear the case... So open up the fucking gate.
Bedlam House: A very good example of a subversion, as the horrific experiments are all part of the protagonist's delusions. The story plays with the audience, as it is because of familiarity with the trope that one so readily accepts Daniels's version of reality as truth.
The background of the story is a bureaucratic conflict to avoid the institution becoming this. Ben Kingsley is a Reasonable Authority Figure who wants to help Andrew Laeddis/Teddy Daniels overcome his condition but Max von Sydow and Stacey Keach 's character believe he's beyond hope and requires lobotomy. The ending implies that Teddy decided to Take a Third Option.
It's Personal: Teddy takes on the case specifically because of its link to his wife.
Lighthouse Point: The lighthouse at the end of the island, that the staff says contains the septic system, but others say contains a lobotomy lab. It's actually an office.
Locked Room Mystery: How did Rachel Solando escape? "It's as if she evaporated straight through the walls."
Meaningful Name: Toward the end of the book, Dr. Cawley remarks on the irony of how Teddy even in his intent to hide the truth from himself, gave his primary psychiatrist the name "Chuck Aule". Say it five times fast.
Mummies at the Dinner Table: Dolores suggests doing this with their drowned children's bodies, just before Andrew shoots her for killing them.
Shell-Shocked Veteran: Teddy's got nightmares and perhaps a drinking problem because of his WWII experience. Specifically for liberating the Dachau concentration camp and participating in a real-life massacre of Nazi officers as a result of Go Mad from the Revelation on seeing the bodies of the victims, that the Allied authorities subsequently covered up.
The Shrink: In Teddy's eyes, the psychiatrists are the evil version of this trope. In reality, they are only trying to help him overcome his madness.
Was It All a Lie?: And a decidedly cruel, sad version of it, because for once "The Mole" was actually doing it for the protagonist's own good.
Chuck/Lester: I'm genuinely sorry about that ... I never wanted to leave you feeling betrayed ... You have to believe me. ... Teddy/Andrew: You were my friend. I trusted you ... You were my friend, Chuck. Oh, I'm sorry, Lester.
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.
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.
Epiphany Therapy: Cruelly 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 at 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.
'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.
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.
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.
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.
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 PlotTwists 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.
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.
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.
"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.
Post-Historical Trauma: The film actually deconstructs Film Noir of The Fifties 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.
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.
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 continues to act delusional and decides that he would rather be lobotomized, in his words, "die a good man" rather than continue to "live as a monster".
Significant Anagram: Four of them, hence the "Rule of Four." Edward Daniels/Andrew Laeddis, and Rachel Solando/Dolores Chanal.
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.
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.)
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.