From Shutter Island to Angel Heart


Cover of "Shutter Island: A Novel"

Cover of Shutter Island: A Novel


When Shutter Island came onto the big screen, I missed it. Being a parent means that I usually get to see the likes of Toy Story 3 and The Last Airbender, but not always the likes of Inception, Kick Ass and Shutter Island. To make up for it, I bought the novel by Dennis Lehane, and read it just a few weeks ago. I’d seen the movie trailer and a few clips that pointed to a ‘everything is not what it seems’ plot, so I had a suspicion that there’d be a twist, but I didn’t guess it outright, and I enjoyed the book very much. A solid, noirish thriller. I’d definitely try another of Lehane’s novels.

So yesterday my lovefilm blu-ray arrived and, guess what? Shutter Island.

The only problem was, of course, that I knew what was going to happpen at the end.

The age old question is book or film? Which is better? Often, people say book. Sometimes film. In this case, I reckon they were both pretty good. Leonardo DiCaprio did a great job of looking like the main character, crushed by the weight of his past – but I’d seen the trailer, remember, so he was the character I pictured – and there was some great imagery of burning and of Dachau that worked better than in the book. Sometimes pictures are more emotive than words (as an author, I hate to admit that). Much of the film had a dreamy, surreal quality that would have had me wondering if I didn’t already know the ending. So yeah, I think I lost out on that score. But it didn’t ruin the film – not by any means – and I would’ve missed out on the pace of the book if I’d seen the film first. Ah well.

Then I got to wondering if Shutter Island will stand up to repeated viewings? With this kind of film, it can be good to go back and see how the story has been layered – the glances, the comments that have double meanings, the sense of what is real and what isn’t. I think Scorsese handled all the delicate threads as well as Lehane did, and it’s a good quality for a film or book to have. An obvious example of this in another film would be Sixth Sense, but that doesn’t really do it for me – the best example I can think of is Angel Heart.

I haven’t read the book, Falling Angel, but the film is awesome. Angel Heart has imagery and dialogue so stuffed full of clues I could watch it over and over, just to see all the discreet moments that point to the final, brilliant revelation and Harry Angel’s spine tingling cries of ‘I know who I am’.  It also helps that it’s a fantastic film with a great plot and some superb acting. There are so many good, quotable lines, and the setting and music are spot on. DeNiro’s Loius Cyphre is chilling and Mickey Rourke’s Harry Angel is captivating. That laconic cool and easy charm – even with the noseshade on his sunglasses.

The pay off in Angel Heart works every time but I don’t know if it will in Shutter Island. DiCaprio and Kinglsey are good, but DeNiro and Rourke are mesmerising (click the photo below, if you don’t believe me).

If you haven’t seen it, you’ve missed a treat. And you know what? I haven’t seen it for a while. It’s about time I watched it again.


'I know who I am'



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