I know, I know, it’s a big hit. Still.
Dennis Lehane’s novel Shutter Island is a bagatelle but a good one, a very enjoyable beach read by one of our top crime writers. There’s just about enough weight and matter there for one of those hour-long Twilight Zone episodes. Might go an hour and a half, which is about how long the book takes to read.
So what happens when Martin Scorsese assembles a top-flight cast and brings the story in at two hours and twenty minutes? Well, what do you think? You get a well-directed, well-acted story with exactly zero narrative drive. It’s not particularly boring or anything. It holds your interest and all that. But it just kind of ambles along like a dreamy schoolboy on a country lane when it ought to be blasting by on the tracks like a bullet train. Loooong scenes of expositional dialogue, sloooow flashbacks, stagnant action scenes. I wasn’t throwing my popcorn at the screen, but I wasn’t exactly on the edge of my seat either.
What’s interesting is that Clint Eastwood, a much more leisurely director in general, did exactly the same thing with Lehane’s Mystic River . That is, he basically filmed the book whole – but that worked great. The difference? Mystic River is Lehane when he means it, when he’s delivering human beings, and neighborhoods and moral ambiguity, good material for a long, deep film. Shutter Island is Lehane having fun. So why didn’t Scorsese do the same thing? Have fun, I mean. Just wondering.