Scorsese, the scar-faced Santa Claus, delivers coal to sinful souls through a wet, red door in this film. Justice and mercy, forgiveness and grief – these intermingle as Leo fights demons and seeks truth. In finding it, however, he also finds himself in interminable pain. This journey is a powerfully concocted trudge through the tortured mind, and ironically it’s a thinker film without a lot of action. Are we meant to see ourselves in one of the two pairs of shoes – as potential patients? Are war “heroes” made at the price of, how did Leo put it in the film…something like, “our God-given moral code?” Motifs flourish in this film: water & death, fire & life, light & escape. Most of the elements are present, but Scorsese’s most impressive elements are the cast members themselves. Each performs perfectly in his / her roles. I love this cast. Each one would make my list of “people I would have lunch with…living, dead, fictitious…” Ben Kingsley is lovely as always – a father/mentor figure. Mark Ruffalo has the role of “foil” down pat, and he such a handle on de-emotionalizing and controlling his characters. I feel safe in his performances – curious, but safe. A favorite and most telling scene is the conversation between Leo and Ted Levine (Monk’s Captain Stottlemeyer). And I’ve come to expect seeing Christopher Plummer lately, so of course he was the man in the chair. Leo is stunning. He is dangerous and unapproachable as a human being, a perfect match to the foil. He is the hero. I love his purpose and his approach to the journey – he fears not for himself – a heroic earmark.I am a Gretel. I love following bread crumbs. (Beware: light spoilers to follow.) It opens with a Hitchcockesque score, which doesn’t continue, but bursts forth once again at the very end. I was surprised to hear the conflict indicator line “A storm’s coming” in the first five minutes of the film. Crumbs: Ruffalo’s gun, accent, and sideways glances; the guards’ boredom, the supposedly-menacing lighthouse (usually a beacon of safety), the darkly humorous interviews. It’s not a question of what is real, but what is actually unsafe? Scorsese sets the audience up well and moves the story at a digestible pace, but shows me too much gore to ever want to see it again. Yes, Scorsese indulges in a violent commentary on life, but at the expense of all comfort. What initially advertises as beautiful is frightfully bloody and heart-woundingly sad.