The Island - Review - Hollywood Reporter
By Kirk Honeycutt
11 July 2005
Bottom line: Reasonably diverting sci-fi action thriller enlivened by the
presence of Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson and Steve Buscemi.
"The Island" starts off an aggressively derivative sci-fi thriller, then morphs
into an above-average chase melodrama.
With a pair of classy actors, Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, aboard for
the ride and director Michael Bay injecting high-octane fuel into the story's
engine, the movie kicks into gear through a series of implausible though fun
sequences of pursuit that utilize nearly all the movie action toys from digital
effects to daunting stunts to massive sets and locations.
While entering the marketplace with less noise than "War of the Worlds" and
"Fantastic Four," "The Island" should soak up much boxoffice coin in the
coming weeks, both domestically and internationally.
For a while, the dystopian story about human cloning by Caspian Tredwell-Owen,
Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci seems more likely to inspire viewer games of
Spot the Movie Clone as the filmmakers shuffle through any number of old
science-fiction movies for plot points and design ideas. These range from
"Coma" to "Logan's Run." Since human cloning itself has become such a
hot-button topic, the film feels contemporary. Even Kazuo Ishiguro's recently
published novel, "Never Let Me Go," deals with a similar story minus,
of course, the chases.
What's troubling from a political point of view is that these filmmakers have,
perhaps unwittingly, delivered a film certain to give succor to the religious
right. In this ethical horror story, scientists experimenting with human
genetics to advance medicine and cure illness are cast as Dr. Frankenstein
villains. The chief villain, Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean), mouths platitudes
about curing leukemia but clearly has greed in his heart.
The early going sets up a humdrum, meticulously controlled environment where
white-clad inhabitants lead aimless lives while supposedly being sheltered from
worldwide contamination resulting from an ecological disaster. From the first
moment, we know this is all a ruse. An omnipotent police force monitors every
bodily function, obsesses over the "proximity" of males to females in the
quasi-segregated population and refers to inhabitants behind their backs as
Only when the curious and restless Lincoln Six Echo stumbles onto the truth
about the facility, which 95% of the audience will already have guessed,
and grabs his pal Jordan Two-Delta (Johansson) for his comrade-in-escape
does the film take off. Fleeing the fake environment for the real world,
the pair stumble into the Arizona desert with a private army led by
ex-Special Forces commander Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou) in hot pursuit.
Their ace in the hole is a cynical but accepting worker at the facility, McCord
(Steve Buscemi), who in the past has sneaked booze and other contraband
to Lincoln. They track McCord to a desert bar and, feeling guilty about his
involvement in the cloning enterprise, he agrees to help them.
There is an unfailing law of filmmaking that once Buscemi gets cast in a movie,
all the best lines and comic business automatically gravitate to him. Here again
he almost single-handedly jump-starts the movie. When he abruptly exits
the picture, his presence is truly missed.
Two striking things animate the remainder of the picture. One is highly
creative chases on freeways and airways of the future. In one, wheels on
a big rig turn into lethal weapons. In another, a futuristic two-man flying
machine slams into a glass skyscraper and ends up dangling out the other
side, entangled in a sign.
The other gimmick has McGregor playing both the original Lincoln and his
clone, one with a Scottish accent and the other American. In an amazing
fight scene, using motion control cameras and careful physical movements,
McGregor actually wrestles with himself.
McGregor and Johansson's characters comprise an impossible combination
of innate smarts and born-yesterday naivete. Yet the young though veteran
actors pull these conflicting conceits off with a fair amount of conviction and
Bay's team hits on all cylinders as designer Nigel Phelps captures the extremes
of an ominous future, Steve Jablonsky's surging music urges the action on
and Mauro Fiore's energetic cinematography blends nicely with the many
DreamWorks and Warner Bros. Pictures present a Parkes/MacDonald production
Credits: Director: Michael Bay; Writers: Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman
& Roberto Orci; Story by: Caspian Tredwell-Owen; Producers: Walter Parkes,
Michael Bay, Ian Bryce; Executive producer: Laurie MacDonald; Director of
photography: Mauro Fiore; Production designer: Nigel Phelps; Music: Steve
Jablonsky; Costumes: Deborah L. Scott; Editors: Paul Rubell, Christian Wagner.
Cast: Lincoln Six Echo/Tom Lincoln: Ewan McGregor; Jordan Two Delta/Sarah
Jordan: Scarlett Johansson; Albert Laurent: Djimon Hounsou; Dr. Merrick:
Sean Bean; McCord: Steve Buscemi; Starkweather: Michael Clarke Duncan.
MPAA rating PG-13, running time 133 minutes.
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