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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie deals with the limits of the human mind and the sheer amount of horror and torment it can take before it snaps. It also examines the extent to which humans are capable of violence and evil. Some characters may or may not have good intentions, but the movie deliberately blurs this behavior in the service of the story. Some conversation about belief in God.
Positive Role Models
The hero is not much of a role model. He has twin goals: One of them requires bravery and selflessness and the other, selfish revenge. But whether he achieves either of these goals is up for debate. He also exhibits violent and erratic behavior throughout and does not play well with others. (On the other hand, he does risk his life in one sequence to save his partner.) Other characters do not seem trustworthy or reliable either.
Violence & Scariness
Quite a few disturbing flashbacks and nightmare sequences, with piles of dead bodies in the Dachau concentration camp, a failed suicide attempt (the victim lays twitching in a puddle of blood), drowned children, a woman's body burning, shooting victims, and more blood. One scene shows the mass slaughter of Nazi guards by American soldiers; their bodies are riddled with bullets as they collapse, one by one, in a line. There are also scary images, such as prisoners grabbing through prison bars at the hero.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
No sex, but in a flashback sequence we see a little kissing between an affectionate married couple. Brief flash of unclothed male prisonors.
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The words "f--k" is heard about a dozen times; "s--t" a few times. We also hear "dick," "prick," "cock," "screw that," "dammit," "Jesus Christ," and "Goddamn it."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters smoke cigarettes often, and one character smokes a pipe. The main character once had a drinking problem, but now abstains from liquor. We see him drinking whisky in flashbacks. Other characters drink in a social way. The hospital uses various sedatives and other kinds of drugs on the patients. The hero takes aspirins and there is a suggestion that they might be laced with hallucinogens or other drugs. We see the effects of these drugs through the eyes of the hero.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Shutter Island is a very intense thriller, with some highly disturbing imagery, including drowned children, Nazi concentration camps, piles of corpses, blood, guns, dark prison corridors, and bizarre, scary nightmares and hallucinations. It contains strong, but not pervasive, foul language, smoking, and suggestions of various medical/experimental drugs. The movie's surprises and twists, while somewhat transparent, might appeal to older teens, if they can stomach the strong stuff. Younger kids and teens are strongly warned away. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
SHUTTER ISLAND is a great-looking, highly stylized, very intense thriller in the vein of Martin Scorsese's earlier Cape Fear (1991). The film was directed by the legendary Scorsese and adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone). While Scorsese is very good at creating strong images and exploring powerful characters head-on, though, he's not particularly good at sneaking around, planting clues and red herrings, and springing surprise plot twists.
Experienced moviegoers will likely be two jumps ahead of the story, but that doesn't take away from the pure, exciting, physical experience of the movie itself. Individual moments and the performances of an excellent cast can take your breath away, regardless of the whole. As with many of Scorsese's movies, the imagery can be of a highly disturbing -- even nightmarish -- nature, and younger viewers are strongly warned away.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
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