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"Shutter Island" is a Box-Office Smash that Asks: Is This Leonardo DiCaprio's Best Performance?

POSTED:

Permit me a smile as I report that Martin Scorsese's stellar *Shutter Island* is the No. 1 box-office movie in a nation that has been previously content to throw out good money after bad (*Dear John*) and brutally awful (*Valentine's Day*). Taking in a hefty $41 million in its opening weekend, Shutter Island reps a personal best opening gross for both director Scorsese (bigger than $27 milion for The Departed) and his star Leonardo DiCaprio (bigger than the $30 million for Catch Me If You Can).

Has the moviegoing public suddenly developed an itch to see smart, cinema-literate entertainment? Sadly, I don't think so. My hunch is the trailer sold the piece as cheap horror. Having bought a ticket to see Shutter Island again this weekend with "real" people instead of reviewers, I witnessed a rapt audience being interrupted by loud fidgeting and bitching on the order of "What the hell is happening in this thing"? Next week's grosses could take a hit.

Though Shutter Island is way smarter than the trailer makes it look, snob critics have been especially condescending, claiming that Scorsese is slumming in the horror genre. Hardly. Tipping his hat to Hitchcock's masterpiece Vertigo and the emotional lightning of Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor, Scorsese shows how potent genre filmmaking can be. I'm especially heartened to hear responses from those who read my blog and follow me on Twitter. Only a few make the mistake of thinking that Shutter Island is all about its "surprise" ending.

This isn't just a thriller about a U.S. Marshall (DiCaprio) investigating the disappearance of a mental patient in an asylum located on an island off of Boston harbor. It's a movie about society as a whole, about the fine line between guilt and paranoia, about a world out of balance that still has echoes for today. To avoid spoilers, I won't write about the plot again till most of you have had the chance to catch up with the movie.

So let the Shutter Island backlash come if it must. Damon Lindelof, the co-creator of TV's mindbending Lost, is an admirer of Scorsese's film. As Lindelof told me on Twitter, "great movies are great dividers." But one aspect of Shutter Island that has not divided viewers is the superb performance by DiCaprio. Is it his best? I'd like to hear your opinions. What do you think are the three best performances of DiCaprio's career to date?

Here are mine:

1. Shutter Island

2. The Departed

3. What's Eating Gilbert Grape

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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