Shutter Island: Film’s Greatest Twist or Greatest Deception?

Shutter Island is a masterpiece most said Leonardo DiCaprio should have received his first Oscar for. His performance, along with well-placed shots, makes the viewer feel as though they are U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels. It isn’t until the twist comes into play that the viewer begins to feel like DiCaprio’s other self, Andrew Laeddis which causes confusion to the film. During the final discussion between Edward and Dr. John Cawley it is seen as though we are given all of the answers for a fully explained ending which makes for one of the greatest twists in cinema history; but what if Edward actually is Edward “Teddy” Daniels and not Andrew Laeddis? Here are some explanations to the theory:

U.S. Marshal Chuck Aule/ Dr. Lester Sheehan

Daniels’ partner is one of the key characters in the film who, in the final meeting, reveals himself as Dr. Lester Sheehan. This fits the theory that Daniels/Laeddis is actually Daniels because this could have been a lie from the very beginning to slowly convince Daniels he is insane. It could be said that after the apparent death of Chuck a fake body could have been used which fits in as being a way to convince Daniels he is hallucinating which is later one of the main factors for him being crazy. The other hallucinations could also be symptoms of PTSD which ties in the flashbacks to the war, his apartment building and in some cases severe flashbacks include features similar to hallucination. This also works due to the film being set in the 1950’s when PTSD wasn’t fully diagnosed until the 80’s.

Another key aspect featuring Aule/Sheehan is when they are conducting interviews. One woman gets Aule/Sheehan to leave the table and then scribbles the word “RUN” in his notepad hinting that he is in danger of being trapped because she knows that Aule isn’t his partner but instead one of the leading doctors at the facility.

The Lake House Memory

The memory at the end of the film helps to visually show what Dr. Cawley and Dr. Sheehan are presenting Daniels/Laeddis. It is the final understanding of what he has been told so it is put together as a reconstruction of what could have happened based on the events referred back to him. There is an argument of how could he have been Daniels when the flashback was played back so accurately to what he had just been told? This can be answered by understanding that throughout the film we become Daniels/Laeddis and we begin to think what he is thinking, so when it comes to this scene when he is slowly being convinced we also become convinced with him making the viewer also believe he isn’t who he claims to be. If Dr. Cawley is saying Laeddis has created this visions and stories as part of role play which has no loose ends then surely, because Laeddis and Dainels are the same person, is it not possible that he could have created a hypothetical flashback, as Daniels, in a way to help him understand? It makes the Lake House memory not a memory but instead a depiction of a made-up reality the doctors want him to believe and that is why he can reconstruct it in his mind to create the flashback and it also helps that Dr. Crawley says Daniels/Laeddis is highly intelligent.

“Is it better to live as a monster or die a good man?”

This is the final quote said by Edward/Andrew in the final scene of the film. It is of key importance for both ideas about Daniels/Laeddis because it can be used in two ways: The first is that it means Andrew Laeddis has accepted that he is continually regressing back to the stage where he believes he is Edward Daniels. This explains the monster from the good man, which in this case would be Laeddis as the monster and Daniels as the good man he once was, so when he walks off to be lobotomised he is essentially dying a good man.

If Daniels actually is Daniels then this can also be explained. Daniels has learnt by this point that the entire island is against him with Chuck/Lester never being his real partner from the very beginning which means there is no escape. Due to his high intelligence he knows this and because of his investigation he doesn’t want to become another test subject. It leaves Daniels dying a good and honest man whilst Sheehan lives on as a monster and deceiver.

A Great Twist or a Story of Deception?

The novel of Shutter Island was originally created with the idea that Daniels/Laeddis is insane and this is very clear cut, but in the film it leaves open spaces which can be filled with ideas that maybe the twist is just a tale of deception to the audience. This is partly due to the way in which Scorsese directs the movie but it also deconstructs this theory due to the concrete points added in which make it almost impossible to argue against. This is shown with the visions of the ‘fake’ Laeddis being dramatised in his shots are shown in an almost sinister or Freddy Krueger like manner and the anagrams of the names Edward Daniels to Andrew Laeddis. The anagrams could bring into question that why is it only Laeddis and his wife whose names are anagrams, is it not plausible that Chuck Aule would also have to be an anagram of Dr. Lester Sheehan?

There are many gaps that can be filled with miraculous and wonderful theories that will keep the film as interesting as ever every time it is watched, but the plot originally states he is crazy so it is seen that the Shutter Island is one of the greatest twists in cinema history.




By Archie Henry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s