Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Book of Eli/ Shutter Island

June 26, 2010

The Book of Eli (2010) ****
Directed by The Hughes Brothers

Shutter Island (2010) ****
Directed by Martin Scorsese

My tweets:

The Book of Eli (2010)- What a pleasant surprise! One of the more satisfying popcorn movies I've seen. **** out of 5

Shutter Island (2010)- Saw the twist coming, but still I was satisfied by this atmospheric mystery/thriller. **** out of 5

Other thoughts:

Both The Book of Eli and Shutter Islands have a surprise twist which almost requires the viewer to go back a second time and watch the films to see how the twists are foreshadowed and incorporated. The Book of Eli's twist caught me completely by surprise; Shutter Island's did not. Yet, the two twists in the two films are not equal in importance to the films' overall stories. The Book of Eli, unlike Shutter Island, is not ultimately about the surprise. The Book of Eli's main intention is to tell a story of a post-apocalyptic drifter's reliance on his faith in the Bible. On the other hand, everything in Shutter Island leads up to that moment when the rug is pulled out from under the viewer. Once all of the truths are revealed in an admittedly corny manner, the stakes shift completely, leading up to one of the smartest final scenes of the past few years.

Overall, I really like both films. The Book of Eli is a straightforward thriller with such clear cut character motivations that one doesn't really need to rewatch the film for any nuance. Yet, it's a really well told tale. Its dank atmosphere packs a punch, and Denzel Washington's performance, as usual, is solid and charismatic. Few actors can carry a film as comprehensively as Washington. Gary Oldman's a lot of fun to watch chewing the scenery as the two-dimensionally evil Carnegie, a superficially religious man who wants to use the potential within the Bible to gather people under his authority so he can acquire unlimited power.

It's not perfect. Again, The Book of Eli is a bit shallow, and Mila Kunis' performance as a young woman desperate to escape the hellish life she leads doesn't work at all. Instead of desperation, Kunis plays her character with snotty irritation. The Book of Eli is a popcorn film with a surprisingly and refreshingly pro-religious bent, and as such, it works quite well.

Shutter Island, unlike The Book of Eli, could have been a masterpiece, even better than Scorsese's ultimate final product. That being said, this is a truly stylish and chilling psychological thriller, with individual moments of true greatness. Leo DiCaprio, by minute thirty, gives one hell of a good performance. Too often, I find him completely unbelievable for the first act of almost every film I've seen him in. Yet, he really immerses himself in his characters, and by the end of many of his roles, he's completely believable and really impressive.

Scorsese's movie making, while enjoyable and endlessly interesting, perhaps helped give away the twist considering that at no point do we feel like we're watching reality play out as such. Something's not right at Shutter Island, and more and more the viewer starts to feel like it has nothing to do with the investigation into the disappearance of a patient. There are strange cuts and bizarre editing inconsistencies which draw attention to themselves just a bit too much. Still, though, Shutter Island works as a piece of great film making, especially when one doesn't judge it based on the effectiveness of its twist.

For a mindless good time, you won't go wrong with The Book of Eli. For a well-constructed good time, despite a let down or two, you won't go wrong with Shutter Island. Both films help to prove that gimmicks can be a whole lot of fun.