By Benjamin Svetkey
Updated August 14, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT
Andrew Cooper

STARRING Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams
WRITTEN BY Laeta Kalogridis
DIRECTED BY Martin Scorsese

Normally, Martin Scorsese talks a mile a minute. Words rat-a-tat-tat out of his mouth like bullets from a tommy gun. But today, speaking about Shutter Island, his psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio (who else?), Mark Ruffalo, and Ben Kingsley, the famously fast-talking director can barely utter a run-on sentence. ”I don’t always like the process of making movies,” he says. ”It can be disturbing. Sometimes the spell of a movie takes over. Even after we’ve finished filming and the actors are all gone, and I’m editing or doing sound mixing — which is what I’m doing now — the spell can stay with me. It stays with me for a good long time.”

It may stay with audiences just as long. In fact, Shutter Island could end up being the spookiest meditation on madness shot by a filmmaker of Scorsese’s stature since Stanley Kubrick handed Jack Nicholson an ax in The Shining. Based on the creepy 2003 book by Dennis Lehane (who also wrote the novels Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone), Island follows two U.S. marshals (DiCaprio and Ruffalo) who, in 1954, investigate the disappearance of a patient from a high-security facility for the criminally insane where a dark conspiracy may be unfolding. Kingsley plays one of the institution’s doctors, while Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen) continues his career comeback as an inmate who may know something about the missing woman. But not everything is as it seems. And DiCaprio’s character has his own issues. ”He’s a World War II veteran who was at the liberation of Dachau,” the actor explains. ”So he sees lots of visions from his past. He’s haunted by the atrocities he’s seen.”