8 out of 10
Life on a Clone Ranch
"The Island" is an action movie by director Michael Bay.Unlike some of his previous efforts like the insultingly poor "Pearl Harbour" and "Bad Boys II", "The Island" has a much stronger storyline. Even so, with a background in car commercials, Bay again fills the screen with his "trademark" tumbling cars, shot with a unique nihilist beauty as he writes off more in moveable assets each film than the average director will in a lifetime. There can be no doubt this is an action movie.
Opening on a bright new morning, Lincoln 6 Echo awakes life every other morning in a future that seems such an Orwellian cliche. A close, almost parody of "The Village" from "The Prisoner" and strikingly similar to Aeon Flux, his world is a giant complex that closely resembles a shopping complex houses happy people who wander around as if in a Nike commercial with an all-purvasive Government watching and "caring" for their every move, a sort of Canada without the snow. Like his best friend, a girl called Jordan Two Delta, he is relieved to live there, knowing he was one of the fortunate ones who survivied a natural disaster that has all but wiped out mankind and awaits his big chance to win the lottery and be resettled on "The Island", the only place yet cleaned up enough for humanity to use to begin repopulating the planet. His curiosity, however, has led him to have a friendship with one of the premises engineers, McCord. Whilst making an illicit visit to him, however, he finds a butterfly, a beautiful allegory for his own exisence in a guilded cage.
In a world as isolated from nature as a BMW commercial, Lincoln begins to question how the butterfly could survive outside when the whole world is supposed to be toxic. Following the air duct where he found it, Lincoln makes the horrifying discovery that his whole world is bot a place of safety, but a cattle ranch filled with clones like himself, where he will one day be harvested for his organs for the benefit of the super-rich. Escaping with Jordan, he finds himself on the run in a world that now truly looks like a futuristic version of our own. Just as the first reel caressed us with the silky smooth life in the glossy complex, so this one jars hard on our nerves that truly looks like a futuristic version of our own. In a twist so similar to M Night Shamaylan's "The Village", gone is the Canada without the snow and, instead, they must face drunken bikers and cowboys in a desert bar, a gun battle on Flower Street, a hit squad armed with the most advanced in high tech weaponry and missiles.
As both Lincoln 6 Echo and Tom Lincoln, the man from whom he was clone. Ewan MacGregor truly shows his versatility, for whilst Tom is a picture of utterly debauched corruption, Lincoln 6 Echo has a child-like innocence, shared by bith himself as well as,Jordan played by Scarlett Johansson. Sean Bean appears in his usual role as the bad guy, reassuring people with that charming smile as he slips the metaphorical dagger inbetween their shoulder blades. Bay also brought back Steve Busceni to weave some more homespun philosophy as he did in "Armageddon" and again has most of the best lines in the film, such as, when asked who God is, he replies, "When you ask for help, God's the guy that ignores you."
Costing $122million, it bombed, taking little more than $35million at the US box office, a vicious whipping that would close smaller studios, so why, when people are looking to enjoy themselves at the cinema, why did "The Island" go down in flames like the Hindenberg. Fundamentally, it suffers a couple of major faults. A major problem is that no matter how hard one tries to describe what it is about, the simplest description is certain to reveal most of the plot as it depends upon an audience being shocked as it reveals how most of the first half is a total illusion. Secondly, the ending is very straight forward and dull. So, why buy a ticket to a movie then, when there is left with nothing to await throughout its entire length?
Additionally to its detriment, there are moments of almost classic breakdowns in logic, for instance, why would a trucker keep driving along normally when people are shooting at his vehicle? And why would he be carrying wheels for trucks when we have already been shown that in this future, they all just glide along using magnetic levitation without wheels?
Despite all this though, and its obvious box office rejection and "The Island" remains a finely crafted action movie with breathtaking stunts and cinematography. Once it grabs you it never lets go of you and its certainly one not to miss on a cold winter evening.
Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett