Summer is a-dyin', the evenings are getting longer — and the cinema breathes a sigh of relief. Good weather is terrible for business, especially if, as this year proves, blockbusters and what are called "event" movies are thin on the ground. This season saw a particularly meagre helping of gruel all round, with the exception of the latest instalment of Shrek and the final outing for Toy Story, both animated features. By the time you read this, Toy Story 3 will have been around for some time, but if it's still hanging on at your local cinema, go. It's a wonderfully entertaining story, wittily told, and in its visual inventiveness and craftsmanship, it is, frankly, a work of art.
But it is, when all is said and done, still a cartoon. What was there in the way of human fare? Amid the sequels and teenage rom-coms, there have been a few interesting films that are now out on DVD. Head and shoulders above them all is Shutter Island, Martin Scorsese's latest and a far cry from the grit, gangs and Mean Streets with which he made his name. Resembling most his lurid remake of Cape Fear, it is what Variety magazine would call a psychological "suspenser", which with its theatrical air of surrealism comes across like a bloodshot Hitchcock thriller.
No more Mr Nice Guy: Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo in "Shutter Island"
Set in the Fifties, it has Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels, a trilby-wearing, noir-ish US Marshal sent to the eponymous island, a prison facility for the criminally insane, to establish the truth about a patient who has mysteriously gone missing. DiCaprio is an interesting actor who has managed that seemingly impossible feat of progressing seamlessly from the teen worship of his pretty-boy Titanic days to the position he now holds in Hollywood as one of its most respected young pillars. Watching him here, fuller-faced, trench-coated and troubled, he reminds one of a young Orson Welles, suggesting a hinterland completely missing from the Matts, Bens and Brads who make up the rest of his acting generation.
And a hinterland is what is required here: Daniels is haunted by his wartime experience and the death of his wife and starts to suspect that, under the direction of the evasive prison governor (a predictably hammy Ben Kingsley) there is something bigger and altogether more sinister happening. This being the kind of film it is, we do too, so it's a relief when the narrative takes a different turn.
The overall effect, ultimately, is like watching a no-expense-spared, more nuanced episode of The Twilight Zone. And like that series at its inventive best, the film stays with you.