Shutter Island Overview
Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island was one of the legendary film-maker's most provocative movies. Buoyed by a stunning performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island culminates in a twist ending that was emotionally devastating and so complex in its execution that it demands a second viewing. There was some discussion that Shutter Island was straight-forward after it reveals the trick pulled at the psychological facility to try and treat Leonardo DiCaprio's Andrew Laeddis for his profound condition. But there remain significant questions and room for interpretation.
Shutter Island Recap
.Shutter Island was focused on Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, two US marshals, who were sent to an asylum on a remote island in order to investigate the disappearance of a patient, where Teddy Daniels uncovers a shocking truth about the place. In 1954, Teddy Daniels was pushing for an assignment on the island for personal reasons, but before long he thinks he has been brought there as part of a twisted plot by hospital doctors whose radical treatments range from unethical to illegal to downright sinister. His investigating skills soon provide a promising lead, but the hospital refuses him access to records he suspects would break the case wide open. As a hurricane cuts off communication with the mainland, more dangerous criminals escape in the confusion, and the puzzling, improbable clues multiply, Teddy Daniels begins to doubt everything, including his memory, his partner, even his own sanity..
What Happens In Shutter Island
The theories about Shutter Island being some secret government facility or the doctors getting to Teddy Daniels by the end of the film were simply off the mark. Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Andrew Laeddis, a disturbed inmate of Shutter Island who killed his wife, and who the doctors were trying to rehabilitate. Teddy Daniels' investigation of the island was actually an intricate role playing game designed by Dr. Cawley (Sir Ben Kingsley) and Teddy Daniels' partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), who was actually his primary shrink, the missing Dr. Sheehan. Dr. Cawley and Dr. Sheehan were the more sympathetic doctors, who believe that with therapy and compassion madness can be cured in someone like Andrew Laeddis. The role playing game was set into motion in order to give Dr. Cawley and Dr. Sheehan one last chance to prove that Andrew Laeddis can be pulled out of his Teddy Daniels fantasy and will accept the reality of his trauma: that his wife Dolores (Michelle Williams) was mentally ill and murdered their children, and that Andrew Laeddis murdered her in retaliation. Andrew Laeddis feels guilty because he knew of his wife's depression for a long time but due to his own issues with drinking and post-traumatic stress after his experiences in WWII, he never acknowledged the extent of her problems and it cost him his children.
Andrew Laeddis Pretends Teddy Daniels
The ending of Shutter Island seems ambiguous to many people, but on second viewing, it was pretty clear-cut. Teddy Daniels wakes up to the reality that he was actually Andrew Laeddis, though he was warned by Dr. Cawley and Dr. Sheehan that he has regressed into his fantasy world before. However, Andrew Laeddis was smart: When Dr. Sheehan sits with him on the steps that next morning, Andrew Laeddis knows that the doctors and Warden were observing his behavior. The thing is, his guilt and pain are still so heavy that he knows he cannot live with them; rather than live with the knowledge of his pain, he chooses to pretend that he was still Teddy Daniels and let them lobotomize him, so that he can finally be free of his burden. He chooses to die a good man.
How The Story Ended
In Shutter Island's ending, Andrew Laeddis delivers a line to Dr. Sheehan about living as a monster, or dying as a good man. Ultimately, Andrew Laeddis would rather be mind-wiped as Teddy Daniels than live with the sins of Andrew Laeddis. In that respect, Shutter Island was a complex study of grief and trauma, and the lengths the human mind will go to in order to medicate itself from harsh reality. Guilt was what caused Andrew Laeddis to invent a secondary persona, one in which he was still a federal Marshal named Teddy Daniels. Shutter Island also meditates on violence, positioning Andrew Laeddis as a self-invented hero, a literal construct personified by Teddy Daniels, whose loss of control in the murder of his wife and indeed in failing to stop the murder of his children and inspires him to create a situation where he was in full control. Teddy Daniels investigates the violence of the Shutter Island story of Andrew Laeddis’ own true story, refusing to accept the possibility of his own violence, which he rejects even as it faces him in the shape of George Noyce.