The Island

© 2005 Ray Wong



Stars: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan, Ethan Phillips, Brian Stepanek
Director: Michael Bay
Writers: Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci
Distributor: DreamWorks
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence, intense action, sexuality and langauge
Running time: 127 minutes

Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 8

Music/Sound– 7
Editing – 7
Production – 8

Total Score – 7.1 out of 10

In 2015, the world has been “contaminated” and survivors, when found and rescued, are transported to a secured facility and nurtured back to good health. They live a sterile, monitored lifestyle; strangely, however, they don’t seem to experience any desire for knowledge. Or sex, for that matter. They seem to all live for the moment of some day winning the “lottery” – the winner is sent to live on a beautiful island, known to be the only uncontaminated place on earth.

Lincoln Six Echo (McGregor) is one of these hopeful survivors. He starts to have lucid dreams about a boat, and he has questions about his existence. The place he calls home is no more than a beautiful prison, and he knows something is not right about the “island.” He befriends a maintenance guy named McCord (Buscemi), who tells him things are not what they seem. Overwhelmed by his curiosity, Lincoln eventually discovers the truth of who he (or they) is and his real “purpose,” and that the “island” doesn’t exist. When his dear friend Jordan Two Delta (Johansson) is selected to go to the island, Lincoln risks his life to save her from her fate. Together they escape the facility into the “real world,” while the facility owner Merrick (Bean) hunts them down with the help of a bounty hunter, Laurent (Hounsou).

McGregor (STAR WARS) plays Lincoln with a good mix of wide-eyed naivet√© and cool determination. His performance gives the heroic character an interesting depth, especially if we consider his real identity. McGregor plays another role, Tom, and “their” scenes together are very interesting and telling. Johansson (IN GOOD COMPANY) is cute and sweet as McGregor’s love interest. Her performance is a little bland. Part of the problem is the relative lack of dimension in her character, but it does make sense that Jordan is not meant to be very interesting. Johansson and McGregor are very attractive actors (their characters’ attractiveness does have a point in the story) and exude great chemistry together. One has to agree that they’re perfectly cast.

The supporting cast does a good job, considering the film’s genre. Bean (NATIONAL TREASURE) plays the-guy-with-a-God-complex with calculated coldness. Much like the corporate villains in other movies such as I, ROBOT, Bean’s character is not necessarily evil – just a product of corporate greed and misguided idealism. Hounsou (CONSTANTINE) deadpans his way through the movie as the conflicted bounty hunter. I find his character the least convincing and his performance the most lacking. Buscemi (BIG FISH) aces his role as the Average Joe who gets caught in the middle of a hellfire. Duncan (SIN CITY), Phillips (BAD SANTA) and Stepanek (MURDER BY NUMBERS) are effective as three clueless survivors whose only purpose in life is to go to the island.

Writers Owen (BEYOND BORDERS) and Kurtzman (TV’s ALIAS) have written an interesting, high-concept sci-fi adventure script. There are some neat ideas, especially in the beginning. The script reminds us of a string of other films such as LOGAN’S RUN, MINORITY REPORT, THX 1138, THE TRUMAN SHOW, and the MATRIX series. Unfortunately, the story gets bogged down by the bigger, better, louder action sequences that are typical of Hollywood summer blockbusters. Some of the sequences are silly, if not ridiculous, that somehow spoil the otherwise interesting premise. The story also loses some of its intrigue as the filmmakers try to explain the story from multiple points of view. I believe suspense would be better served had they allowed the audience to discover the truth along with the main characters.

Director-producer Bay (BAD BOYS II) is well-known for his mindless, rollicking, adrenaline-pumping action flicks. Though his films are usually highly visual and entertaining, we simply can’t take them too seriously. Here, however, Bay is trying to give us something more intelligent and thought-provoking (before he bogs it down with silly stunt sequences) than his usual fares. I think it’s rather commendable. In pure sci-fi mode, THE ISLAND is intriguing with high-concept designs and some stunning imageries. It’s when the film puts on its action/adventure face that it becomes run-of-the-mill. Don’t get me wrong; the action sequences have Bay’s signature all over them, and they’re very entertaining and exciting. It’s just that THE ISLAND could have been more.

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