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Something That Bugged Me About “Shutter Island” (BIG-ASS SPOILERS After the Jump)

February 25, 2010

As I’m sure all my loyal readers already know, I just published a review of Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island on the independent Boston University e-zine The Quad. (First I wrote for Pegleg Spinners, now I write for The Quad… The humor of that pairing is only now occurring to me.) You can read the review if you want to know my general opinion of the film, but there was one specific aspect of the movie’s ending that I wanted to criticize but couldn’t because I would have had to give away major plot points to do so. So, instead of mentioning this complaint in my Quad article, I’m devoting this blog post to it.

Again, the thing I am going to discuss in this post will completely spoil major plot points that come very late in the movie, so don’t continue reading unless you’ve already seen Shutter Island or don’t care if you find out how it ends.

One more warning:


Okay, so DiCaprio’s character’s real name is Andrew Laeddis, right? That’s his real name which he had in the real world for his whole real life up until he went crazy. And “Edward Daniels” is just a fake name that Ben Kingsley’s character made up for the purposes of this role-playing exercise that the movie is based around. So here’s my question: Isn’t it kind of odd that Laeddis’ real name just happens to be an acronym for a much more normal name?

I’m picturing Ben Kingsley sitting at a table rearranging the Scrabble letters for ANDREW LAEDDIS. “Hmm… Ooh, ‘Edward Daniels’! Wow, that is really fucking convenient for me! I’m so glad I figured that out; I was leaning towards ‘Ridweed Sandal’!”

The really odd thing is that, as far as my cursory Google search can tell, the name “Laeddis” only exists in Shutter Island.  Dennis Lehane, the author who wrote the original novel, must have come up with “Laeddis” after naming his protagonist “Edward Daniels,” so why didn’t he just make Daniels the real name and Laeddis the fake one?  That would’ve actually made sense.

Please let me know if I’m off base on this.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. r_sam permalink
    February 26, 2010 1:48 am

    My guess on the Laeddis swap: Edward Daniels is about as “Joe Shmoe-y” and disarming as you can get, so when we hear it it helps to orient Leo as a normal guy –not a paranoid schizophrenic, or whatever he’s supposed to be.

    • Matt permalink*
      February 26, 2010 10:20 pm

      I’m sure that’s why the names were arranged the way they were, but in terms of narrative logic, it still doesn’t make any sense.

  2. Paul permalink
    March 6, 2010 3:54 am

    ILeo’s character came up with the mixed up names, not Ben Kingsley. After all, it’d make no sense for kingsley to have to convince leo that his new name is Ted. Leo came up with that and Rachel solando on his own. Kingsley just set up the roleplay to match leo’s delusions, not the other way around.
    I thought you were going to critize the scene where dr. Crawley reveals it. The whole pulling back the sheet to show the chart to the audience was just silly. There were so many better ways to show that, but I guess they didn’t know where else to throw it, since it was a clever part of the book.

    • Matt permalink*
      April 8, 2010 12:22 am

      Leo’s character came up with his own alias? Maybe I misinterpreted that part. Regardless, Laeddis was still unbelievably lucky to have such an easily anagrammed name.

      And yeah, I think I almost laughed out loud when I saw that big chart.

  3. Timmy Petersson permalink
    April 4, 2013 3:30 pm

    I know I’m _really_ late to the party here, but since I just finished reading the book (which I read after seeing the movie – the movie is one of the best book-sourced adaptions I’ve seen to be honest) I’m kinda in a Shutter Island-mode at the moment. But it didn’t bother me much – it’s a bit of an odd surname but it just sounds a bit foreign. What I find strange is that the name also is based off his kids – Edward and Daniel. That when it really stops making any sense… Still, great movie, great book.

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