By: Mary Fran Bontempo

Shutter IslandLeonardo Di Caprio.

Those two words are reason enough for me to watch just about anything, kind of like “George” and “Clooney.”

But just because a guy’s pretty doesn’t mean he turns in a great performance. Yet with Leo (you, too, George, with the exception of the abysmally boring Solaris), a great performance is a given–every time. Leo even breathed life into Jay Gatsby, a character that the great Robert Redford left DOA in his portrayal of the mysterious millionaire. (See our NRFGP review of The Great Gatsby here.)

So, when the weather turned dreary this week, I turned to Leo for an afternoon movie break.

Shutter Island, the 2010 release starring Leo, Mark Ruffalo (another reliable and appealing actor) and directed by Martin Scorsese, is a taut psychological thriller set in a spooky asylum for the criminally insane that seems haunted by all manner of happenings.

Leo’s Teddy Daniels is a federal marshal sent with his new partner, Chuck Aule (Ruffalo), to the island to investigate the disappearance of a patient–a near impossibility as Shutter Island is isolated and locked down in every conceivable way. From the first, the place makes Teddy uneasy, and with good reason; after being made to surrender his weapon upon arrival, knowing looks from patients, cryptic conversations and an off-limits lighthouse have Teddy looking over his shoulder in no time.

It doesn’t help that Teddy is grappling with his own ghosts: a dead wife (Michele Williams in a haunting-no pun intended-portrayal) and the recurring vision of a dead child he sees in his nightmares as he relives his time as a soldier fighting the Nazis. Before long, Teddy, and the viewer are both wondering exactly what’s real and what isn’t on Shutter Island.

Scorsese is a master at building suspense and by Shutter Island’s climax, you’ll be on the edge of your seat. Pay close attention, though. A popcorn break could find you missing vital clues. Regardless, I’ve seen the film several times and catch something new every viewing.

Di Caprio is by turns tough, terrified and broken–but he’s pretty to look at regardless. And while that’s enough to get me tuning in, if you’re in the mood for a gripping thriller that you can watch from your sofa for cheap, Shutter Island won’t disappoint.