The Best of the Decade series looks back over the most popular and beloved films of the past ten years. Each author chooses a film they believe to be the definitive film of the year, along with a wildcard favourite film of their own. For 2010, Cian Mac Lochlainn has chosen Shutter Island as the definitive film of the year, and True Grit as his personal favourite.
Best of 2010: Shutter Island
Written by Cian Mac Lochlainn
How does Scorsese, a director who arguably has at least one all-time classic for each decade of his career, begin the 2010’s? By giving his voracious audience one of the all-time brilliant psychological thrillers in his adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s 2003 chiller Shutter Island. In Leonardo DiCaprio’s fourth outing with Scorsese, set in 1954, two U.S Marshals Edward ‘Teddy’ Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are called to Ashecliffe Hospital: a mental asylum on the eponymous Shutter Island in Boston Harbour. Here, they investigate the disappearance of a patient who was incarcerated for the drowning of her three children.
The lack of cooperation from staff, be they orderlies, guards, doctors or the mysterious Dr Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the hospital’s lead psychiatrist who refuses to hand over records, has us questioning every twist and turn we see. No sooner have the two Marshals arrived a massive storm knocks out the power on the island and the ferry that brought them there is grounded by high seas. Now trapped on the island with only secretive asylum staff and its criminally insane inmates for company, Daniels becomes convinced that a conspiracy lurks within its dark corridors.
What begins as neo-noir style story with a haunting atmosphere and disturbing visuals descends into a much darker tale as we explore the damaged psyche of Teddy Daniels. We delve deeper into the life of a man who has known nothing but horror. We learn that he is a World War 2 veteran who was part of the army unit that liberated the Nazi death camp Dachau, and is still haunted by the indescribable horrors that greeted him. Daniels is also troubled by visions of his wife who died in an fire set by a serial arsonist. He may have survived World War Two and may have thought he was finally free of its ravenous appetite for death, destruction and misery, but it appears the war is certainly not finished with him.
Scorsese’s penchant for daring wide-angle and long-shots truly add to the creepy atmosphere complimented by DiCaprio’s hang-on-every-word dialogue.
To some, Scorsese has become forever associated with some of the best mobster films of all time (Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and The Departed all come to mind). However, while he cut his teeth on 1973’s Mean Streets, it’s often forgotten that his iconic film Taxi Driver explores a protagonist with similar circumstances to Shutter Island’s. We follow a war veteran struggling to hold on to the remnants of his damaged psyche. Though the motif is considerably different in Daniels’ case: we are lulled into a false sense of security as, unlike Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, we are led to believe that Daniels has a firm grip on reality and his surroundings.
For those who, mistakenly, believe that Scorsese is a one-trick pony, they are dared to sit through this non-stop thriller. Scorsese’s penchant for daring wide-angle and long-shots truly add to the creepy atmosphere complimented by DiCaprio’s hang-on-every-word dialogue. He may have ended the decade with familiar territory in 2019’s The Irishman, but Scorsese began this decade by venturing into unexplored ground, silencing his critics who long maintained he had become a cliché .
Shutter Island is now available to stream on Google Play and Amazon Prime Video.
Critic’s Choice: True Grit
Written by Cian Mac Lochlainn
“Oh, you’ve really done it this time Joel and Ethan! You may have gotten away with spoofing Hollywood Noir with the Big Lebowski but don’t you dare touch another piece of Hollywood history! What’s that? It’s just a remake? With Oscar-nominated performances from Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld? You’ve done it again!”
I’ll be perfectly honest and say I struggle to sit through Westerns. I’ve always found them to be nothing but a cheap exercise by men who are insecure about their own masculinity. However, credit where credit is due: this movie was a pleasant surprise from the Coen brothers. They finally won their maiden Oscar for their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s modern-day Western, and decided to take it old-school with a remake of the 1969 film of the same name that won John Wayne his only Oscar.
Bringing back the ever-so consistent Josh Brolin and Matt Damon, this is far from a cash grab by Hollywood in what was a decade defined by remakes. The Coens stamp their mark in telling a revenge story of in which Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, a girl on a quest for vengeance for the murder of her father by Tom Chaney (Brolin). With Chaney firmly in Native American territory and out of the Sheriff’s jurisdiction, she enlists the help of the ageing and alcoholic, but still effective, gunslinger Rooster Cogburn (Bridges). They are aided in their odyssey by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Damon), who is also charged with bringing Chaney in for the murder of a Texas State Senator. Determined not to see Chaney hang for a Texas crime, a race ensues to catch him before he escapes. It’s the Wild West’s take on a coming-of-age story. Be sure to check this one out.
True Grit is now available to stream on Netflix.