Scarlett Johansson = Teh hotness
When Grraf-Nig asked me to review THE ISLAND for the good people over there at Gamespace I was stunned. I mean, while I love the Gamespace readers.. Everyone of them! I couldn’t believe that I was being asked to do such a thing!
When I protested, Grraf asked what the problem was. When I said “Michael Bay Directed it! You know, the guy who did Pearl Harbour!!” the phone fell silent for a moment, I actually began to think we’d been disconnected when Grraf finally replied. “Look, if you take this one for the team, you review Land of the Dead next week!”
SOLD! Here’s your stinkin’ review of The Island….
If you’ve seen the trailers for The Island then, well, you’ve seen the film. I don’t mean to suggest that you shouldn’t bother seeing the movie, surprisingly it does an extremely good job of being entertaining despite appearing to have given away most of itself in it’s own promotional material. However, what I soon realised while watching the film, was that this movie is following the current trend of delivering a more personal, character driven story in the guise of an action thriller and, as such, the movie is much more than just what the surface plot suggests. What I mean is, The Island is about as much about being a clone as War of the Worlds was about the actual invasion: Yes, the whole clone plot is a large part of the canvas of this movie, but the story is more about the people at the centre of it all.
Ewan McGregor plays Lincoln Six-Echo, a resident of a futuristic refuge for survivors of a global disaster which occurred sometime during the mid 21st century. Life in this facility is heavily regimented. Residents health is closely monitored, their individual food intake is dictated, social interaction is governed tightly, even the (all white) clothing worn by the residents is supplied by those running the facility.
As space becomes available lotteries are drawn, the winners of which get to say good-bye to the homogenised life in the facility and start a new one ‘outside’ on the soul remaining uncontaminated place on Earth. A paradise known only as ‘The Island’.
From an observers point of view you quickly notice that the residents are simple and uncomplicated people. Their language skills are limited and conversations focus largely on their desire to win the lottery and go to the island. They lack any creative urges or inquisitiveness and most are content to perform seemingly pointless jobs, like injecting nutrients into mysterious plastic tubes without question. Lincoln Six-Echo is different. He is curious about things (Where do the plastic tubes come from? Where do they go?), he has strange nightmares and is bored with life in the facility. He wants more from existence than just to wait around to go to the island – He even wants coloured clothes!!
Eventually Lincoln Six-Echo’s curiosity (and his friendship with McCord, a technician played by Steve Buscemi) leads him to discover a hidden level of the facility. On which he witnesses some disturbing events and comes to understand that not only is there no ‘island’, but that he and all the other residents are being harvested for body parts. Realising that his friend, Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) who has just won the lottery, is next on the chopping block (so to speak), Lincoln sets about liberating her (and himself) from the facility and attempting to survive in a world that they know nothing about.
It’s sometimes hard to forgive a film maker for their previous works, for some reason we seem to take it personally when a movie is released that we don’t particularly like and we also tend to be quite vocal about it. Michael Bay has copped a fair amount of just such derision from film fans who’ve been none too impressed with his last couple of offerings. To make matters worse the marketing team behind The Island has seen fit to promote this film as “From the director of ‘Armageddon’ and ‘Pearl Harbour'”, which just seems like they’re asking to take a bath on it, before it even hits the cinema screens.
As a director, Michael Bay has his name associated with some action stinkers and some ‘also ran’ movies. Up until this point the only movie with his name on it that I’d give a thought to owning on DVD, or even a second watch for that matter, is the 1996, Nicolas Cage action flick, The Rock.. I say ‘up until this point’ because Bay has surpassed everything that he has done before with The Island.
As I mentioned earlier, The Island is a movie that focuses on its characters. However, that’s not to say that it doesn’t have an ample serve of good old fashion action. Ok, it’s not ‘non stop’ action by any means. It takes its time to develop the characters, you get an opportunity to see Lincoln and Jordan in their natural environment, a place where they stand out from the others around them. They’re confident and comfortable within themselves and, to its credit, the movie takes its time doing this, while others may find the first ‘chapter’ of this film somewhat slow, for me, it was probably the best part of the movie.
Once the pair escape from the facility (lets call it chapter two) the movie changes tone from intriguing Sci-Fi to Action/Thriller in the blink of an eye. We see Lincoln and Jordan wide eyed and child like as they are thrust out into the totally unfamiliar, dirty ‘real’ world and watch as they try to survive it and the team of elite mercenaries hired to return them to the facility. While some of the action is a little over the top its done in a convincing fashion and is quite exhilarating. Being set in the near future, The Island takes advantage of ‘possible technology’ in much the same way as Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, however you don’t seem to be as confronted by it as was the case in Minority Report and most of it seems really quite feasible, with the possible exception of the flying motorbike!
The Island is a well crafted Sci-Fi Action Thriller, with solid performances from all involved. It looks fantastic, has an excellent soundtrack, subject matter that’s only as thought provoking as you want it to be and plenty of really, really cool car crashes! Will it be added to my DVD collection when its released? You bet!
[Originally written for EON and published at Gamespace on Fri, 29 Jul 2005]