Martin Scorcese has a brilliant talent for creating tense movies with unexpected outcomes. This is another fascinating thriller with Leonardo DiCaprio as a federal marshal sent to investigate a disappearance in a mental institution.

Synopsis (from rottentomatoes.com):

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio team up for a fourth time for this adaptation of SHUTTER ISLAND, a novel by Dennis LeHane (MYSTIC RIVER). The film opens in 1954 as World War II veteran and current federal marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner, Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), ferry to Shutter Island, a water-bound mental hospital housing the criminally insane. They have been asked to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solando (Emily Mortimer), a patient admitted to the asylum after she murdered her three children. As Teddy quizzes Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the head of the institution, he begins to suspect that the authorities in charge might not be giving him the whole truth, and that a terrible fate may befall all the patients in spooky Ward C — a unit devoted to the most heinous of the hospital’s inmates. Complicating matters further, Teddy has a secret of his own — the arsonist who murdered his wife is incarcerated on Shutter Island. Driven to confront his wife’s killer, and stranded on the island because of a hurricane, Teddy must unravel the secrets of the eerie place before succumbing to his own madness. Max von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, and Jackie Earle Haley round out the supporting cast.

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The mind is a fascinating organ and a powerful media in creating realities. The riveting way in which the story slowly unfolds with adequate clues along the way (if you are looking carefully) makes for an interesting movie, on par with A Dangerous Mind staring Russel Crowe. What is reality and how our minds may distort it is scary if we stop to think about it. In some ways, reality is what we make of it. Reality is built up by how we perceive the information received by our senses. What if somethings goes wrong with the process of perceiving? What if some trauma or injury distorts our perceiving? What type of reality do we then live in? And if one is caught in this reality, how can this person be helped.

In the movie, psychiatrist Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) enters the psychotic reality of ex-federal marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) in order to help him confront the truth and destroy the false reality he was caught in. Such delusional realities are very hard to break. By moving into Daniels’ reality, Cawley reminds me of God who became man to move into our reality and break the bondage of sin. Only by his incarnation is our bondage to sin broken and we are able to perceive a new reality. Daniels’ trauma is his murder of his wife and children and it is this that distort his perception of reality. His mind creates a reality for him to exist and escape from the pain that he feels.

I often wonder whether the reality that we exist in now is an illusion, created by our minds to escape the trauma of separation from God which is our sin. Now even when Jesus has come, we often, like Daniels in the movie, keep slipping back into his version of reality in order to escape the truth.

Another thought. Is it better to live and die pain-free in a reality which is an illusion or is it better to wake and face the pain of reality?

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