DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: The Island

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Island

The Island (2006) dir. Michael Bay
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Sean Bean, Djimon Honsou


By Alan Bacchus

I’m one of the forgiving critics who can generally look past ridiculous plotting, overwrought hyperkinetic visual stimuli, the often objectionable depiction of women and the general immaturity of Michael Bay’s films and appreciate the pure spectacle of his filmmaking aesthetics. Michael Bay makes Michael Bay movies, and God bless him for it.

Back in 2005, fresh off the relative disappointments of Pearl Harbor and Bad Boys 2, Bay’s attempt to come back with The Island also failed. His brand of glossy eye candy just didn’t fit into the brainy ‘70s intellectual futurist sci-fi from which the concept of The Island stems.

In this film, we experience the point of view of Lincoln Six Echo (McGregor), one of hundreds of men and women living in a sterile futuristic boarding house of sorts, sequestered from an apparent viral outbreak in the outside world. They spend their days exercising, eating right and wearing identical white jumpsuits. Their one goal in life is to win the lottery, which takes them to ‘the Island’, a seemingly pristine world free of their forced confinement and the contamination of the rest of the world. But when Lincoln starts questioning the absurdity of his sterile lifestyle, it begins his journey of escape and the discovery of the heinous deception at play.

Eventually, Lincoln and his tagalong gal pal Jordan Two Echo (Johansson) escape and get chased by the cool looking police cum SWAT team led by the slick Djimon Honsou. Normally with this type of film, say George Lucas’s THX 1138, escape from containment occurs in the third act. But such timing just doesn’t pass for summer blockbuster entertainment. And so, by the 45 minute mark, Lincoln and Jordan are on the run, fish out of water trying to navigate their way in the real world with Bay attempting to extract humour from their wide-eyed naive reactions to the colloquialisms of our world.

The application of the Bay brand of dialogue, that hyperfast delivery of crude jokes and characters talking over each other in loud, shrill voices, is distinct to the director, but doesn’t fit the genre. Same with the overly lit music video lighting. Everything in the film is a bold colour, whether it’s the yellow sunlight that streams through every window like it’s blazing dusk blinding our eyes, or the overly greenish fluorescent lights showing us the grimy and dirty aspect of the conceptual world.

The most disappointing aspect of the film is the Bay action scenes, and action scenes are the main reason to watch these movies. The central set piece, another highway chase, is a near carbon copy of the Miami freeway chase in Bad Boys 2 (Bay would even try this a third time in Transformers). When the action scenes fail to stimulate us in a Michael Bay picture, the film is doomed.

The third act, which runs way too long, surprises us with the introduction of a doppelganger Ewan McGregor. Bay has some fun with the dual character banter, one a slimy disreputable race car driver and the regular Lincoln a sympathetic innocent to the world.

In the end, The Island is even more forgettable than his most brainless features. Bay should either just stick with the brawn, like in the Transformers franchise, or completely shift gears and exercise his brain for a change. I genuine like the guy and would love to see the latter.

The Island is available on Blu-ray from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment.


Wismerhill said...

The Island is somewhat a rip off of Logan's Run, which I think is better.

Alan Bacchus said...

I wouldn't use the word 'ripoff'. The Island falls into a specific near-future genre film, like Logan's Run, like THX 1138, etc. All of which have borrowed from other films, and literary sources.