This is not Leonardo DiCaprio’s best movie, but it is by no means a bad movie and Leonardo DiCaprio still manages to put in a pretty good performance. The movie features a powerful leading actor, an interesting screenplay, and great supporting actors. But the sloppy direction ends up dragging down the movie with its weirdly fickle genre which seems to flip-flop between neo-noir, horror, and psycho-thriller.
The heart of the movie comes with Leonardo DiCaprio’s interesting performance in the movie which much like many of his other performances is so dramatic and well-paced. This may well be the hardest role DiCaprio has played in his career and the fact that he could pull it off as well as he did proves how great he is at what he does. With nuance, detail, and a frightening sense of realism DiCaprio gets the audience to follow him right to the end of the movie where he puts in a very strong final few scenes that really drive the film home. Mark Ruffalo stars apposite DiCaprio as his police partner, and just like every Ruffalo performance he makes his character interesting and perfectly charismatic. Ruffalo’s performance may not be as dramatic and intricate as that of DiCaprio, but that is also one of the reasons why the two actors have such great chemistry.
Ben Kingsley also star sin the movie as the interesting character of Dr. Cawley. Kingsley too puts in a powerful performance which showcases his dramatic abilities. His best moment however is also in the hyper-dramatic conclusion in which he gets to put in some powerful acting and great sense of character. He too has great chemistry with his onscreen partners, especially that of Ruffalo and Max von Sydow. Sydow also has a small role in the film and despite its very short screen time he gets to put his mark on the movie while working very well with his costars. Michelle Williams also has a smaller role as Leonardo DiCaprio’s late wife. Despite some awkwardly directed moments with Williams, she does put in a great performance in the latter parts of the movie where we truly get to see the colors of her character. Finally we also get a handful of intense scenes with Patricia Clarkson as a escaped woman of the psychiatric hospital who has a truly intense and well acted scene with DiCaprio.
The screenplay, by Laeta Kalogridis based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, of the movie too is great, with some interesting pieces of dialogue, especially a monologue by Clarkson’s character and a perfectly written scene towards the end with DiCaprio, Ruffalo and Kingsley. The screenplay also has a great way of tying up all of its loose ends and seems to be thoroughly well-thought-out. The problem with the film however comes through some very peculiar direction-choices by Martin Scorsese who seemed to switch genres from scene to scene. The movie seems to open as a neo-noir film, and a good one too, but as it goes on, some of the scenes start diverging into the horror-genre in some very awkward transitions and flashback scenes. And then finally at the end of the movie, the film has shifted to a psycho-thriller. And the idea of starting as a neo-noir and shifting to psycho-thriller is an interesting idea and as I rewatched the movie I tried to look for who was at fault for the awkward transition and it seems more like Scorsese and the acting-styles were at fault.
Another thing that was off in the movie was the art direction and cinematography and costume design and makeup design and soundtrack. Although in each of the individual scenes all of these aspects look great, but there’s a very lacking sense of connection between them, which is also probably still a little due to Scorsese. With pone scene having horror-style makeup and very strong horror-style cinematography, while another scene has great neo-noir style art direction and cinematography the viewer is thrown off by the lack of connection between the scenes and the awkward sense of genre-transition. In other words, each scene looks and sounds brilliant as a stand-alone scene, but when all the scenes are put together it simply does not work.
This film serves as a great showcase for its actors and features a pretty thrilling screenplay, but Scorsese (who has more than made up for this movie with his other work), seems to have messed up the movie with the weird lack of genre-continuity.
Best Aspect- DiCaprio, Ruffalo and Kingsley
Worst Aspect- Martin Scorsese’s direction