Shutter Island comes to Region Free US Blu-ray with a tremendous 1080p High Definition visual rendition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. Detail looks tremendous throughout; clarity is of the highest standard, retained on both the close-up shots of sweating, on-edge faces and the longer island vistas. Whilst there is a light sheen of grain, this is totally intentionally and completely in-line with the period design of the production, and the presentation is utterly devoid of digital defects and edge enhancement. The colour scheme is of the extremely dilapidated variety, again as is appropriate for the isolated fifties asylum setting, the tones much less vivid and bright and much more dark and dank, although there are some warm and vibrant aspects thrown into the mix. And the setting simply comes alive here, looking extremely authentic in its representation. Black levels are superior, which is all the better considering just how much of the movie we spend inspecting the limitlessly deep shadows, there is a significant amount of 3D pop and once the director showcases classic filming techniques (as opposed to digital work) at their best. It’s a superior rendition, one of the best that I have come across thus far this year.
To accompany the atmospheric thriller we get a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio track which brings the potency of the invasive soundtrack right into your very own living room. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently from across the frontal array, and effects are well-observed and nuanced (a few of the more thunderous moments – like the storm sequence – coming across more noticeably through the surrounds). But this track is really all about the score, a dominant, oppressive accompaniment that really makes for an unforgettable aural offering. Although it is quite front-heavy, that’s only appropriate for the in-your-face menace presented by this aggressively potent mix. Overall the track goes a long way to create the wonderfully haunting atmosphere in the movie, one of the most important elements in the production, boasting screaming highs and rumbling, threatening bass lows, and accurately replicating all of the crafted sounds here. And the LFE will have one hell of a workout over the duration, rounding out an amazing track.
There are only two extras on this release, but they are fairly weighty Featurettes that offer some semblance of insight into the production. The first one, Behind the Shutters, takes just over 17 minutes to look at the cast and crew, how they all came together under the close guidance of Scorsese, the characters that were brought to life and the subtle story-behind-the-story approach which many of the actors needed to adopt. There is also some discussion of the score that was used – not composed for the movie, but cobbled together from existing pieces. All of the main contributors are at hand for interview soundbites: from DiCaprio to Ben Kingsley, as well as, of course, the ever frenzied Scorsese himself and the author Dennis Lehane.
The second Featurette runs at a longer 21 minutes and is entitled In the Lighthouse. It explores the specific 50s asylum setting, and the efforts made to make every nuance of the production feel authentic – both in sets, costumes and techniques and behaviour. We get to hear more about the psychiatric and psychological themes within the production, both in terms of the novel and the movie, with Scorsese and Lehane both on hand once again. They are both solid Featurettes, almost comprehensive in their Documentary style, but they don’t really make up for the lack for Commentaries, Deleted Scenes or other material, let alone all of the Hi Def extras like Picture-in-Picture tracks and Video Commentaries that could have been commissioned. For such a recent, relatively popular release, it’s surprising that there isn’t more to adorn this disc.
Shutter Island is my favourite Scorsese movie since The Aviator, an enthralling and extremely atmospheric psychological mystery thriller that was something of a sleeper hit at the Box Office. With a subtle, well developed, and gripping story that is emboldened by a suitably menacing score, great cinematography, and strong visual imagery, and brought to life by yet another powerhouse performance from the best actor of his generation, DiCaprio, the movie cerebrally captures your attention for the duration, and leaves you musing long afterwards. This is much more than just a great genre flick, it works in tandem as both a superior thriller and a keen insight into the mind of madness. Not only do you wonder whether the characters will get off the mysterious island alive, but also whether their very sanity will remain intact. It is tremendous multi-layered storytelling.
On Region Free US Blu-ray we get some fantastic video and audio presentation, as well as a couple of nice extras (although these do not make up for the distinct lack of Commentaries, Deleted Scenes and Hi Def exclusive material) and this makes for a worthy release of the title for fans to pick up. Newcomers should consider this a highly recommended title to add to your collection – it may not quite make Scorsese’s Top 5 ‘greats’ but it is a stunning masterpiece nonetheless.
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