Shutter Island Ending Explanation
Fans who thought that Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie “Inception” had a confusing ending should wait to see the “Shutter Island” ending explanation. Yes, DiCaprio’s last couple of films have featured ending that have had fans scratching their heads and taking to the Internet to debate their pet theories on how bot of those movies ended and what it means. For fans of “Shutter Island” though, the ending appears to be more open to interpretation depending on how his character’s last line is thought to have meant.
“Shutter Island” sets the audience up from the beginning by introducing DiCaprio as a U.S. Marshal named Teddy Daniels who is called to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from an inescapable mental hospital. His investigation leads him to into a journey of deception and self-discovery as it turns out that he is not a law enforcement officer, but rather a patient himself named Andrew Laeddis who was incarcerated there after he murdered his wife in retaliation for her murdering their children.
His doctors, desperate to get through to him, allow him to live out this delusion that he has of himself as a Marshall in order to get him to realize who he is and escape the fate that is waiting for him if he does not; a lobotomy for repeated violent acts against other inmates.
At the ending of “Shutter Island”, DiCaprio, having realized that he is really Laeddis and that he killed his wife, is talking to his doctor and asks the question, “"This place makes me wonder which would be worse – to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?" He then slips back into his Daniels persona as the hospital’s staff takes him away to be lobotomized. This leaves the audience with two possible ways to explain the ending of “Shutter Island”:
He was faking it. Having finally faced the truth of his actions and the subsequent guilt that that entailed, Laeddis decides that he can’t live with the idea that he is not the kind of man he wants to be. Some fans have offered this as one possible explanation to the end of “Shutter Island”. They point to the fact that when he was talking to his doctor, the tone of voice he was using was a way of saying goodbye and to tell the doctor that the treatment did indeed work, but that he can’t live with the outcome so he’s surrendering himself to the operation as a means of cleansing himself of the pain.
He was telling the truth. The treatment did work, but only for a short time. Laeddis’ mind is so set in damage control mode that he “resets” to Daniels as a way to keep himself safe and no treatment will change that. This means that he will also likely become violent again and again. This is the way the author of the book “Shutter Island” explains the ending. However, in interviews since the movie’s release, even he has doubts about how director Martin Scorsese chose to direct the scene considering the now-famous line does not appear anywhere in the book.