Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Review of The Island

Island, dir. by Michael Bay (2005), Starring Scarlett Johannson, Ewan MaGregor, Sean Bean, Djimon Hotsou, Ethan Phillips, Michael Clarke Duncan, Steve Buscemi

Michael Bay usually achieves high grosses on films that are rejected by critics and most moviegoers of good taste. Richard Roeper called Bad Boys II the worst picture of the decade. Therefore, it was kind of odd that this 2005 film turned out to be a little bit the opposite: It completely bombed at the box office, making for Bay's lowest film to date, yet it might have been his most interesting film.

"The Island" is a sci-fi film along the lines of GATTACA or I, Robot, set in some dystopian future, where the protagonist comes to the rescue of everything by transcending the limits of what the more rigidly stratified society places on him. It's also incredibly close to the plot of the truly awful Arnold Schwarzenegger film Sixth Day, but that film was so hauntingly abysmal that I don't even want to devote an entire sentence to plot synopsis for fear of the awful memories it will bring up. Nevertheless, the story revolves around a futuristic factory that promises to prolong the lives of its clients through cloning the clinets and using the clones' organs for transplants. The clones live in this isolated world with implanted memories and the idea that there is no life outside of this world. They're made to perform tasks that lead to the operation of the factory, so that saves labor costs. The only salvation for the clones is the belief that they will be taken to a paradise called the island if they're selected in a lottery, but in reality when a clone wins the lottery, that means the client needs an organ and the clone is killed. Ewan MaGregor and Scarlett Johannson play two clones who somehow find out about this outside world and are on the lam from the people who run the factory who view this as a doomsday scenario. So, being a Michael Bay film, this is also an action film, and a great one at that.

As I said earlier, it's by far Michael Bay's most interesting film but the plot leaves a lot to be desired. While I'm a sucker for a good sci-fi film, there seems to a complete ignorance of the fact that we've made a lot of progress in terms of harvesting replacement organs already that doesn't require building entire clones. I also feel like the premise attempts too hard to position the story of two runaway clones as the defining tale of this futuristic society to be a little bit of a stretch. Sean Bean is not playing God and can't make people immortal, because there's a point with many diseases beyond where a single organ replacement can save a life anyway, despite what he claims.

Also, considering the quality of the cast, the acting is a little subpar. Ewan MaGregor has the challenge of playing two people and I applaud him for that, but with the exception of Sean Bean, I don't really feel like anyone gave a remotely memorable performance. Visually, there were a lot of interesting things to look at, but it didn't look like anyone bothered to dress up the exterior shots to look equally as futuristic as the clone factory.

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