The Island (2005)

9 May

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

To be completely honest, I had no idea what Michael Bay’s “The Island” was about when I first watched it. I didn’t know the premise, except that it took place in a dystopian future and, being a Michael Bay film, it would feature a heavy dose of action. That’s why as I watched “The Island,” not knowing what was going to happen, I became fascinated by each twist and turn that it would deliver.

I found myself enjoying “The Island” and its clever, intriguing story that involves a lot of science-fiction elements and gripping action sequences to keep its status as a summer-blockbuster. Michael Bay is usually known for overkill in his movies, such as “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor,” and the two “Bad Boys” movies. But “The Island” is more on the same dosage of entertainment as Bay’s best film, “The Rock.”

Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t a great movie. Some of the story developments are somewhat dumb, others are unresolved, and the character development is hardly solid. But most of them do work, enough to be intrigued by the creativity of such. The action is well-executed with some original touches to keep them interesting (for example, one chase scene involves a load of heavy barbells to hold off company). The production design is impressive. The actors look like they’re having fun. And the twist that comes midway through is actually pretty good, and allows for some very interesting moments of thought (quite unusual for a Bay picture).

The film begins as a sci-fi parable in a sterile, technologically-advanced, futuristic environment that features inhabitants who are survivors of a “contaminated” world outside. The residents wear entirely white clothing (while the supervisors wear entirely black) and go about a certain system that requires them to remain obedient. Big-screen TVs scattered throughout this sealed bubble announce a Lottery that declares a winner to go to the only safe place left on Earth—the “Island.”

Now, even though I didn’t know what was going to happen, I can tell you that even a grade-schooler could tell that something is not right with this futuristic society. And thankfully, our hero, Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor), conveniently starts to ask the right questions to his supervisors and his friends. This is somewhat of a surprise to Merrick (Sean Bean), one of the supervisors, since the people in the white suits aren’t supposed to think very deeply about these sorts of things.

Lincoln’s friend, Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), has been chosen to go to the Island, but Lincoln still isn’t so sure of this system and how it works. When he discovers the truth, however, he and Jordan escape into the outside world…

It’s going to be hard to go into the second half of “The Island” without having to give away spoilers. But I will give away only one certain spoiler, and that is that the world seems fine for a future that is supposed to be “contaminated.” The world has not changed; it’s this society that has been created within it for mysterious reasons involving the Government.

Period. That’s all I’m going to describe. The less you know about the story, the more you’ll get into it. It really depends on whether or not you buy into it. I did. I thought it was very entertaining and quite intriguing. That’s not to say there aren’t problems, of course. Like I said, not everything pays off and some points are admittedly ridiculous. But there are enough aspects that I found rather fascinating.

I liked the relationship between Lincoln and Jordan. Unusually for these action movies, the romance is not so complicated. It’s nice that these two are already friends before the action takes place, and it doesn’t subject us to that clichéd forced romance in which a man and woman hate each other and then start to love each other as the action continues. I thought the relationship in “The Island” was refreshing, and I liked Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson in their roles.

But being a Michael Bay film, there are all sorts of action—we have chases, shootouts, showdowns, fistfights, etc. with explosions, noise, and “permanent sunsets.” (Did you ever notice that each of Bay’s movies seem to take place at sunset most of the time?) Aside from the obligatory climax in which Lincoln and Jordan must ultimately make things right after all this peril and adventure, I was hooked by the action sequences. I already mentioned the barbells in the chase scene; that was a very original touch.

“The Island” starts out as a sci-fi parable, turns into an entertaining action flick, and as a whole, it’s quite a good movie.

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