Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay by: Laeta Kalogridis
“Some places never let you go.”
Shutter Island is a 2010 neo-noir psychological thriller directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Laeta Kalogridis, based on Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel of the same name.
In 1954, U.S. Marshals Edward "Teddy" Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule travel to the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane on Shutter Island in Boston Harbor. They're investigating the disappearance of patient Rachel Solando, who was incarcerated for drowning her three children. Their only clue is a cryptic note found hidden in Solando's room: "The law of 4; who is 67?" Daniels and Aule arrive just before a storm hits, preventing their return to the mainland for a few days.
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They find the staff confrontational. Dr. John Cawley, the lead psychiatrist, refuses to turn over records, and they learn that Solando's doctor Lester Sheehan left the island on vacation immediately after Solando disappeared. They're given access to the hospital, but they're told that Ward C is off limits and that the lighthouse has already been searched.
While being interviewed, one patient secretly writes the word "RUN" in Daniels' notepad. Daniels starts to have migraines from the hospital's atmosphere and also has waking visions of his involvement in the Dachau liberation reprisals. He has disturbing dreams of his wife Dolores Chanal, who was killed in a fire set by a local arsonist named Andrew Laeddis. In one instance, she tells him that Solando is still on the island somewhere — as is Laeddis, who everyone claims was never there in the first place. Daniels later reveals to Aule that finding Laeddis was an ulterior personal motive for taking the case.
During their investigation, Daniels and Aule find that Solando has abruptly resurfaced with no explanation as to her former whereabouts or how she escaped. This prompts Daniels to break into Ward C. There he encounters George Noyce, a patient in solitary confinement. Noyce warns him that the doctors are performing questionable experiments on the patients, some of whom are taken to the lighthouse for lobotomies. Noyce warns Daniels that everyone else on the island is playing an elaborate game specifically designed for Daniels — including his partner Aule.
Daniels regroups with Aule and intent on investigating the lighthouse. They become separated while climbing the cliffs toward it, and Daniels later sees what he believes is Aule's body on the rocks below. By the time he climbs down, however, the body has vanished, but he finds a cave where he discovers a woman in hiding who claims to be the real Rachel Solando. She tells him that she's a former psychiatrist at the hospital who found out about the experiments with psychotropic medication and trans-orbital lobotomy in an attempt to develop mind control techniques. Before she could report her discovery to authorities, she was forcibly committed to Ashecliffe as a patient. Daniels returns to the hospital, but finds no evidence of Aule ever being there.
Daniels is convinced that Aule was taken to the lighthouse; he breaks into it only to discover Cawley calmly waiting there for him. Cawley explains that Daniels is actually Andrew Laeddis, their "most dangerous patient" — incarcerated in Ward C for murdering his manic depressive wife Dolores Chanal after she drowned their children. Edward Daniels and Rachel Solando are anagrams of Andrew Laeddis and Dolores Chanal; furthermore, the little girl from Laeddis' recurring dreams is his own daughter Rachel.
According to Cawley, the events of the past several days have been designed to break Laeddis' conspiracy-laden insanity by allowing him to play out the role of Daniels. The hospital staff were in on the test, including Dr. Sheehan posing as Aule and a nurse posing as Rachel Solando. The migraines that Laeddis suffered were withdrawal symptoms from his medication, as were the hallucinations of the "real Rachel Solando". Overwhelmed by these revelations, Laeddis faints.
He awakens in the hospital under watch of Cawley and Sheehan. When questioned, he tells the truth in a coherent manner, which satisfies the doctors as a sign of progression. Nevertheless, Cawley notes that they had also achieved this state nine months ago but Laeddis had quickly regressed, and further warns that this will be his last chance to redeem himself.
Some time later, Laeddis relaxes on the hospital grounds with Dr. Sheehan, but he calls him "Chuck" and says that they need to leave the island. Sheehan shakes his head to an observing Cawley, who gestures to the orderlies towards Laeddis. Laeddis asks Dr. Sheehan if it is worse to live as a monster or die as a good man, and is then led away by the orderlies.