The Island (2005)
Film review #568
Director: Michael Bay
SYNOPSIS: Human survivors of a post-apocalypse “Contamination” live their lives in an underground silo with every aspect of their lives monitored and regulated. The only way out is to win a random lottery, wherein the winner gets transported to “The Island,” an apparent paradise. Lincoln Echo Six, one of the residents, begins asking questions about the outside world and The Island, and when his friend Jordan Two Delta wins the lottery to go to the island, he takes the chance to try and find out for himself what that entails, leading to a discovery that forces him and Jordan on the run…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Island is a 2005 sci-fi film. It is set in an underground bunker, where the human residents are told they are the last surviving life on the planet, and their lives are monitored in every detail to ensure their safety. Lincoln Six Echo is one such resident who is questioning the whole system, much to the annoyance of the director. The only way to leave the facility is to win a random lottery, where the winner will be take to “The Island,” a paradise where the winner can live a life of luxury. The setting of the film should be familiar to those who know anything of the genre, as it pays homage to films such as Logan’s Run, in setting it in a dystopian futuristic society where certain things are forbidden (love, mostly). It, subsequently, should come as no surprise that this whole set up is hiding a dark secret, and when Lincoln Two Six discovers that The Island doesn’t exist, and they are all just clones being used as spare parts/organs for their sponsors who paid for them to be made, he and Jordan Two Delta, who has just won the lottery to go to The Island (which in reality is just having your organs harvested), make a break for it and escape into the outside world. They are pursued by a mercenary force on the orders of the director to have them returned. The whole setup should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this type of film, but the familiarity with the concept allows the characters a bit more breathing room to develop. The trouble with this, is that the film doesn’t really do that: it just turns into a chase film with little direction: I get that the two main characters are just trying to survive and perhaps not thinking about a long-term goal, but this does leave the film feeling, as a viewer, a little rudderless.
Lincoln and Jordan are pursued by this band of apparently highly trained mercenaries, but the fact that they are unable to stop two people that have never been in the outside world or seen many of the things that exist there just makes them seem a bit incompetent. Despite a lot of focus being on the intimate relationship between the two leads, the film does have a fair few big action scenes, unsurprisingly brought to you by director Michael Bay. As you might expect, there are scenes full of high speed chases, explosions, and loud noises that are designed to have a lot of energy and hype. The problem with this though, is that it doesn’t really mix with the other part of the film, and again, that these two people who have never been in the outside world are able to survive these over-the-top sequences just seems implausible. The film does feel like it is made up of two different films that just do not mix. There’s a number of scenes that are quite gory and visceral too, which feel a bit much for a middle-of-the-road sci-fi film. The trailer too, makes the film seem like more of an action film, with comedic elements, when that just is not the case, so you can understand why it received mixed reviews for failing to deliver what it promises.
The chemistry between the two main characters, played by Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannsen is pretty good, but the fact that they are described as being like fifteen year olds who have no idea about sex, relationships, the outside world etc. makes them very odd characters to try and get to grips with sometimes: sometimes you can be convinced that they are clones raised in an underground silo, other times it just doesn’t seem plausible. I imagine it’s hard to write characters that fulfil their premise, and I don’t think it’s the fault of the actors, who do a good job, but I do think the film sets itself quite a difficult premise to implement, especially as the film is marketed as a more casual sci-fi film. The supporting cast is composed of familiar faces such as Sean Bean and Ethan Phillips (Who played Neelix on Star Trek Voyager), and again help ease the viewer into the film. While the film does deliver some different parts that work, they don’t come together to form a cohesive whole in and of itself. The film is marketed as something it is not, and I’m not sure what the vision of it is: it obviously pays homage to a specific type of dystopian sci-fi, but how it is building on it (via subversion parody etc.) never becomes apparent. The story is a bit of a mess, and feels very implausible at points, and it doesn’t push its character development enough to make it’s leads stand out. Has some good parts, but becomes a bit of a jumbled mess when stitched together haphazardly.