The Island (2005)

Synopsis

Mild spoilers follow.

The year is 2019. Lincoln Six Echo and Jordan Two Delta are two of the luckiest people alive: two of only a few thousand survivors of a contamination event which wiped out all other life on the planet. They've lived in a controlled, paradise-like environment for the last few years; every day they get up, they are fed strictly balanced diets, they exercise, they work, they are forbidden to get into too close "proximity" with one another, they play futuristic videogames and drink fruity, non-alcoholic drinks, and they go to sleep. Periodically, a lucky, lucky person is chosen at random from the Lottery to be sent to the only remaining inhabitable land in the world: The Island.

It's almost a perfect world. Almost too perfect. Lincoln starts having weird dreams about drowning, and asking difficult questions. Why does everybody always have to wear white all the time? Why can't he eat what he wants instead of what he's been given? Why, after all this time, are survivors still being found alive and brought into the habitat periodically? Where do those tubes go?

Lincoln sets out one day to find out - and discovers the horrifying truth behind the Island and the Lottery. Of course, his closest friend, Jordan Two Delta, won the Lottery just yesterday and is about to be taken away to the Island. The only chance he has is to escape with her...

Cast and other info

The Island stars Ewan McGregor as Lincoln Six Echo, Scarlett Johansson as Jordan Two Delta, Sean Bean as Merrick, the overseer of their habitat, Steve Buscemi as Lincoln's technician friend, McCord, and Djimon Hounsou as Albert Laurent, the man assigned to track down the escapees at any cost.

The Island was written by Caspian Tredwell-Owen and directed by Michael Bay, whose previous works include the less impressive Pearl Harbour and the appallingly over-the-top Armageddon. It runs for 136 minutes and is rated PG-13 in the USA and 12A in the UK, for some somewhat medical gore, two S's and an F, and an incident involving a nailgun. It was released in the USA on July 22, 2005.

Thoughts

A few more mild spoilers here...

This movie was very... linear. I wouldn't say predictable as such (to be honest, I often take my mind off the hook when I'm watching movies like this in case I ruin the experience for myself), but... if you had half an hour you could probably deduce most of the rest of the movie from the proto-synopsis above. It was very linear. One thing happened then the next thing then the next thing - there was no sense of previous interactions having later significance. Very little happened which made me sit up and go, "Ooh, I wasn't expecting that to happen". It all worked out very, very neatly. Suspiciously so.

The action sequences were generally spectacularly impressive. There was a little too much chasing-on-foot, there were some seriously implausible stunts (less the "eh, well, that's Hollywood" kind, more the "nobody is that lucky" kind), but generally, I was sitting up, I was paying attention, I was enjoying. The first car chase, I would say, outstrips the one in The Matrix Reloaded. Special effects were as good as you get nowadays - the bit where Lincoln meets... well, it'd be giving it away to say who, but yeah, that other person he meets, that is, to my mind, extremely impressive. The music (by Steve Jablonsky), also, was highly enjoyable, pulling those goosehairs up at all the right times.

Bad: The product placement. Oh my goodness the product placement. It felt like every five minutes there were billboards or products or labels being jammed in my face. Fifteen years in the future, it seems, Microsoft is still using the old Xbox logo, even though there's ALREADY a new one right NOW. There was a Calvin Klein advert immediately prior to the showing I saw, which for various reasons actually turned up inside the movie itself. I can't figure out if it was incredibly clever of them to do that, or incredibly stupid.

A day in the clean, white lives of Lincoln et al was interesting to watch with all its swish just-around-the-corner technology, but in the end the details of his morning routine, food regime, exercise regime and social life had very little bearing on the course of later events and felt like dead weight in the story. Jones Three Echo's numbering thing never amounted to anything. The moth never amounted to anything. The structure of the white world was never really well-explained, and I suspect it wasn't actually structured that well anyway - keycards don't get deactivated when they're discovered to be missing; our beautiful people are allowed to interact somewhat freely with people who know the whole story which strikes me as dangerous; the movie's tagline is "Plan Your Escape" but Lincoln and Jordan escape with absolutely no planning at all; later, other things which should be amazingly difficult to pull off also turn out to be really, really easy. Then there are the other nitpicks in the plot. Lincoln and Jordan, people from a totally pacifistic world, nevertheless figure out violence and shooting other people really quickly, and react to the outside world with surprising calmness. Starkweather (Michael Clarke Duncan) wakes up at a really, really convenient time. Jordan smuggles a gun much further than should have been possible in the given situation. Everybody always has spare clothes...

The dialogue was serviceable, but never really sparkling, never witty when it was trying to be, never really stirring or memorable (which is why there aren't any quotes interspersed with this review). McGregor and Johansson acted as well as could be expected. Sean Bean was better, but he did have some of the nicer lines. Djimon Hounsou was well cast, Ethan "Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager" Phillips less so.

Overall

Seven out of ten. Enjoyable action, great music, cool scenery, uninspiring dialogue, rickety plot.

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