STARRING: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi

2005, 136 Minutes, Directed by:
Michael Bay

Description: An intriguing action adventure set in the near future, The Island finds those who survived a mass global contamination living in a contained and highly controlled world. Their actions are controlled, their lives are routine, and the only hope is to win a lottery and be sent to a mysterious island, the so-called last surviving, uncontaminated paradise on the planet.

There is something about Ewan McGregor’s smile that has always scared me slightly . . .

He has the look about him of a young child who is very proud of his ability to reach the toilet in time. The whole look of The Island in general is peculiar. A little like Fifth Element – all shiny and botox’d. The trouble is, the latter film had oodles of unique style (thanks to Jean-Paul Gaultier) whereas any visual appeal that The Island has is akin to that of many things from the 80’s, or Ewan McGregor’s smile, i.e., superficial.

I have no equivalent complaints about Scarlett Johansson’s smile. Unfortunately though, Johansson is miscast as Scarlet Two Delta. A relative unknown would have been preferable in this role because the demands of the character and the transformation she goes through during the course of the story are too great for such a familiar face to carry off with conviction.

The supporting cast are more interesting to watch. Ethan Philips as one of the more blissfully oblivious prisoners in particular is as entertaining as he is as Neelix in Star Trek: Voyager. Of the stars, Sean Bean is to baddies what sandwiches are to lunch; an obvious choice. Steve Buscemi brings a touch of much needed eccentricity to proceedings, but is unfortunately obliged to read from the same script as the rest of the cast.

As the first half of the film closes and we leave the confines of the facility within which our heroic pair have been incarcerated, high contrast colors are no longer the sole indication of the identity of our director – we quickly enter classic whizz-bang Michael Bay territory. Unfortunately we have seen it all before. The plot is interesting, but itself barely original enough to prop up the run-of-the-mill chase/fight/explode scenes.

The pace at which the plot is progressed is sensible though and keeps us somewhat interested for much of the film. The story doesn’t seem especially original, but to my knowledge this kind of dystopian story has not been done in the Bay-esque style before, so fair play I suppose. I would suggest as an alternative dystopian-themed film experience, a concatenated combo of THX-1138 and La Jetée which can be viewed consecutively in the time slot which The Island would otherwise have you squander.

Perhaps this is one of a rare breed of film where a remake would be desirable. A sensitive and less obvious approach to scripting and casting would do more justice to the interesting storyline. Michael Bay would be best off sticking to shallower plots that need the shiny cast and incendiary special effects to hide behind.

I must be in a particularly bad mood because I did enjoy watching some parts of this sci-fi romp. I really just resent the quantity of time it took to do so . . .

- Geoff Clayton




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