The Island - Review
Review by Jack Foley
ASKING Michael Bay to direct an intelligent science fiction thriller is rather like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut – it just doesn’t work but the carnage is spectacular.
Hence, the guy who turned the potential destruction of the world into a theme park adventure in Armageddon, and who managed to trivialise the events of Pearl Harbor, now gets to tackle the issue of human cloning in The Island.
The result is something of a clone itself – an outlandish sci-fi thriller that borrows heavily from many other films, as well as the director’s own back catalogue.
Taken on its own terms, the film is an enjoyable romp; a classic example of style over substance that does, at least, hint at something to stimulate the brain.
The first half, especially, establishes an intriguing vision of the future that poses more questions than it ultimately cares to answer.
Set in the mid-21st Century, it finds Ewan McGregor’s Lincoln Six-Echo and Scarlett Johansson’s Jordan Two-Delta inhabiting an apparent utopia – a carefully controlled environment where everyone wears identical white uniforms and exists on a stress-free, ultra polite basis.
The inhabitants are made to believe they are the only survivors of ‘the contamination’ of the world and want for nothing – their diet is strictly regulated, their relationships are monitored and even their dreams can be checked and deciphered.
What’s more, each occupant clings to the possibility that they might one day be selected for ‘The Island’, an apparent paradise they can secure for themselves if they win the daily lottery.
The truth, however, is much more sinister. The Island is a fabrication and ‘winning’ a trip invariably means extermination.
Why? Because the occupants in question are clones who are grown to produce body parts for their rich human counterparts in the event of illness or injury.
When Lincoln Six-Echo discovers this on the eve of Jordan Two-Delta’s ‘departure’, he breaks free from the community with Jordan in tow in a bid to survive and expose the whole operation.
The ensuing adventure is pretty much one long chase sequence that plays down the sci-fi in favour of explosive action.
Bay has long been a dab hand at creating big-screen carnage on the grandest scale and even without the presence of Jerry Bruckheimer as producer, does so with aplomb.
A freeway chase, in particular, is brilliantly orchestrated, even though it recalls instant memories of both The Matrix Reloaded and Bad Boys 2.
The film as a whole also looks fantastic, successfully creating a vision of the future that is all too believable (much like Minority Report).
But whereas a director of Steven Spielberg’s calibre can effectively balance great set pieces with thought-provoking human drama, Bay seems unable to do both at the same time.
His characters lack any real depth and aren’t given much time to develop, while the villains are pretty straight-forward and beyond redemption (Sean Bean filling the breach on this occasion).
Taken at face-value, therefore, The Island ticks all the right boxes in terms of providing popcorn-friendly entertainment, tickling the brain rather than taxing it.
Just don’t expect its intelligence to be anything other than artificial.