Shutter Island - ENDING EXPLAINED!

Martin Scorsese wasn’t joking when he stated that his neo-noir psychological thriller Shutter Island, based on Dennis Lehane’s 2003 novel of the same name, would make twice as much money because viewers would have to watch it twice to comprehend the finale. He may, however, have miscalculated the situation. Even after more than two viewings, it’s still unclear what’s going on on the eponymous island, and whether Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is the mental case that the film’s supporting cast suggests.

The jury is still out on which interpretation of Shutter Island is true, and the argument over the film’s conclusion continues to this day.

However, do not be concerned!

We’re here to figure out what’s wrong amid the craziness, and we’ve got plenty of proof to back it up. Take our word for it, but don’t just believe us. Take a look…

SHUTTER ISLAND (2010) Ending Explained

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It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: what follows is a major spoiler on top of even more massive spoilers.

Teddy is under the influence of a mind control program.

Let’s start with the basics: Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, whom we’ll call “Teddy,” is being indoctrinated.

That doesn’t rule out the possibility that Teddy is insane. Or the fact that he was always correct. Or that he was a true United States Marshal. (All of that will be covered later.) Rather, what we witness throughout the film is an elaborate role-play in which the physicians at Shutter Island actively try to implant a certain memory into Teddy’s mind—namely, that he is truly Andrew Laeddis, who mercifully executed his crazy wife after she drowned their three children.

The underlying question is whether that memory—in which Teddy murders his crazy wife after she drowns their three children—is Teddy’s. Despite the medical team’s best efforts, many viewers wrongly presume Teddy shot his wife at their lake cottage and simply refuse to recognize the sad experience. However, upon deeper examination, there’s cause to believe the memory in question isn’t Teddy’s.

Teddy isn’t a marshal from the United States of America.

However, before we delve further into Shutter Island’s murky attempt to brainwash Teddy, it’s critical to clarify another crucial story point: Teddy is not a US Marshal.

This allegation is backed up by a mountain of evidence that is unmistakable. Teddy and his partner, irritated by Dr. Cawley’s refusal to participate in the inquiry, say they’re “going to submit our reports and give it over to…” but don’t remember the federal chain of command. It doesn’t take a U.S. Marshal to figure out that Teddy is talking about the FBI, and Dr. Sheehan—who isn’t a U.S. Marshal—completes Teddy’s statement with the FBI’s nickname: “Hoover’s guys.” Isn’t it strange that a seasoned US Marshal can’t remember to who he sends his reports? Migraines, on the other hand, can be quite debilitating.

While failing to remember the FBI may be forgiven, failing to distinguish between a genuine, metal pistol and a cheap, easily-broken plastic toy is not. Teddy claims he knows the pistol is loaded because of its weight, and that “his initials are on the side and there’s a ding in the barrel from when Philip Stacks shot at me.” He snaps it like a twig, despite this.

You’re only pretending to be a cowboy, Ted.

He’s a pyromaniac who likes to set things on fire.

Teddy is clearly a Shutter Island patient, and he is almost probably the pyromaniac who killed his wife and three others. Teddy has a dream about “Andrew Laeddis,” the firebug who allegedly burned down his apartment complex, and this is the most revealing piece of evidence. A close-up view of a definitely imaginary Laeddis lighting a match appears during this scenario. Even the movie’s advertising cover art has a close-up of DiCaprio’s visage behind a lit match.

When you consider Teddy’s ability to make on-the-fly vehicle bombs, you have more than enough evidence to believe he is the pyromaniac who set fire to his apartment complex.

He’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Teddy’s transformation into the pyromaniac who murdered his wife was most likely the result of horrible events he had while serving in WWII.

Teddy saw the death toll of a WWII concentration camp, was a member of a team responsible for “murdering” scores of unarmed Nazis and was confronted with the aftermath of a botched suicide attempt while serving overseas. Teddy has evidently been affected by these occurrences since he has nightly nightmares about them. Recurrent dreams are a definite indicator of PTSD, which may have prompted Teddy to burn down his flat in a fit of rage.

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Teddy created a fictional reality—as revealed by Dr. Cawley and Dr. Sheehan—in which he is a US Marshal on the hunt for his wife’s killer because of his great remorse and reluctance to accept the atrocities he has committed. Teddy is clearly mentally ill and committable in this way. He’s obviously in need of psychiatric help.

He ain’t no “Andrew Laeddis,” and the two physicians aren’t treating him.

He is being used as a test subject.

Teddy is correct, however: Shutter Island is a government plot.

While it’s tempting to accept Shutter Island’s dramatic shock and the finale at face value, it’s a mistake to overlook how dodgy the entire place is.

Teddy has not built a fake narrative for the clandestine, isolated mental facility just because he has created a false story for himself. “They’re doing experiments on individuals here,” Teddy informs “Chuck,” his fictitious colleague who is actually Dr. Sheehan and so knows the truth. Teddy’s hypothesis is dismissed by Sheehan, but Teddy has worked it out. “Isn’t that what makes it so lovely?

They’re the ideal subjects for crazy individuals “he exclaims “Nobody pays attention when they talk. At Dachau, I stood. Right? We’ve seen what humans can do to one another, haven’t we? We fought a damned war to stop them, and now I’m learning it’s happening here? What, on our own turf?”

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Teddy may be insane, but he isn’t completely incorrect. “Shutter Island stinks like government operations,” says one character. The guards are armed with military firearms and drive military vehicles. In a historic Civil War fort, the most dangerous “patients” are kept. The whole complex, including the lighthouse, is encircled by an electric fence.

Teddy, of course, realizes it… but what can he do? He is, after all, a subject of a mind-control experiment.