Shutter Island: Book vs. Movie

I know, I know… the movie came out in 2010, but I rarely see movies (especially at the time they come out) and I just happened to read the book a few weeks ago, so here goes…

Shutter Island is a psychological thriller by Dennis Lehane. Main character Edward “Teddy” Daniels is a US Marshal who has been dispatched to a rather creepy institution for the criminally insane. One of the patients as escaped and it’s Teddy’s job to find her. It seems like a pretty simple plot, but as it goes, there are a lot of twists and turns, leading to more and more tension. I shall not give away any spoilers for anyone who cares to watch/read.

The Book: For a mainstream thriller, it was written very well and exceeded my expectations. The style was poignant and poetic, especially when delving into Teddy’s memories of his deceased wife and his flashbacks to World War II. The book started out a little slow, but quickly began to pick up speed as it went. The majority of the characters were well-developed, which was another surprise and something I didn’t expect from a mainstream novel. This book will make you think deeply about psychology and how traumatic events affect our minds. The main reason I wanted to see the movie was because I thought the book was pretty much made for the big screen.

The Movie: The movie followed the book almost exactly, although it didn’t quite capture the level of character development in the book. I wouldn’t classify it as horror, although some scenes are pretty freakish. I especially enjoyed the flashbacks, and thought they were better portrayed in the movie than in the book. Ben Kingsley made a great Dr. Cawley – as a matter of fact all the “antagonists” were as effective in the book as they were in the movie.

The book and the movie were equally good. I can’t pick which I enjoyed more. I would say that it’s a good weekend watch/read if you’re interested in psychology.

9 thoughts on “Shutter Island: Book vs. Movie

  1. Didn’t read the book, but enjoyed the movie quite a bit ~ more than we thought we would. Lots of twists and turns.

    But . . . once the ending was revealed and we walked back through the plot, step by step, we did see some rather jagged edges that didn’t “fit” with the rest of the puzzle.


  2. I think Donald Maass raved about Dennis Lehane, Mystic River specifically (in his workbook for Writing the Breakout Novel). I keep meaning to pick up Mystic River, but Maass spoiled the plot, so maybe Shutter Island would be a good substitute.


    • I’m not sure if I’d read Mystic River. Thrillers aren’t really my thing, but maybe I’ll give it a shot.


  3. Saw the movie, which I enjoyed, but for movies based on Lehane’s novels I enjoyed Mystic River more, and Gone Baby Gone more than that. Also, I deliberately rented Shutter Island and Inception at the same time because there are supposed to be a lot of similarities (and there were). I wasn’t bowled over by either one, though.


      • Oh, definitely do see it. I enjoyed it, and I knew the ending, too. Some of the big action scenes are really striking. I probably underrate it a bit just because I so often see it overpraised. I did not find it to be either great or profound, but it is entertaining. (BTW, for a really great movie about some of the same ideas, though with no big action sequences or special effects, I recommend eXistenZ.)


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