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The Island

Something is terribly wrong here. Terribly wrong.

It’s summer time, which usually lends to mindless blockbusters and throwaway spectacle films, and any film helmed by Michael Bay should be a shoo-in for lacking depth and substance, right?

So why is it that a third of the way through his latest effort, The Island, Bay still seems to be approaching the material from a rather subdued and introspective perspective? What is going on here?

Well, folks, it’s plain and simple. Bay has managed to do the unthinkable. With The Island, he has produced a film that actually manages to say something while it entertains its audiences. Would you imagine that!

A message in a Michael Bay film? Has hell frozen over? The Island had to be approached with guarded caution, considering that the closest Bay had come to making a political statement of any sort in any of his previous works was found in the opening moments of Armageddon, in which Bruce Willis’ Harry Stamper launches golf balls at a nearby Greenpeace boat, who are busy protesting his oil rig.

Hardly a veiled jab at the liberal left. One could hardly refrain from assuming what sort of statement Bay had in store within a film openly incorporating aspects of cloning technology into its primary plot thread. The film focuses on Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor), a man living comfortably within the confines of his shared community of survivors of some unnamed plague.

Lincoln has recently begun questioning his role within the shared community, namely in correlation to his newfound friendship with gearhead mechanic, McCord (Steve Buscemi) and the strange dreams he has been suffering each night as a result of his newfound friendship. The story is, Earth has suffered some sort of massive plague that essentially infected and killed a sizeable amount of the human population.

Survivors of this plague are holed up in a controlled environment, which mirrors the sort of utopian dystopia found in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Granted, inhabitants in this perfectly controlled society are given all that they need according to strict diets and regimented routines. They never ask questions, and their quality of life continues to thrive day in and day out.

Or so they think. Lincoln Six Echo, on the other hand, has begun to question the society he has had foisted upon him since being found and brought to the facility. Since everyone needs something to live for, each evening a lottery is performed and one lucky inhabitant is chosen to go to a neighboring island, which is said to be uncontaminated and thus the ideal locale to begin repopulating humankind.

Sounds dreamy doesn’t it? Of course, knowing full well the disillusionment in such tales as this, the question of exactly what is going on remains on the outskirts of comprehension for a good bulk of the film. We know that this world is a construct, and it is apparent that something is afoul as Lincoln and his friend Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) are advised to spend time apart from one another, and most importantly “mind your proximity.”

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this film is the restraint Bay exercises in telling his tale. Sure, his film is troubled in stretches and eventually winds down into exploiting the more traditional Bay conventions, but there are large stretches in which the director manages to bide his time, set mood and tonality, and actually engage his audience in the storytelling process.

Mind you, this does not make The Island a perfect film, or even remotely close to being a masterpiece. In fact, the same film by a more accomplished or respected director could have easily been dismissed as being somewhat middle of the road in terms of quality, yet because this comes from Bay, the master of schlock cinema, The Island gets a bit more leniency.

It’s similar to an annoying sibling who just won’t stop pestering you day in and day out. You can’t really take them in heavy doses, but when they say something remotely profound or insightful, you have to sit up and take note.

Bay still manages to “blowed stuff up real good like” in the third act, yet he also ties the action back into the concept being presented, so it sort of excels above the normal explosions for explosion sake.

As Lincoln interacts with more and more of his acquaintances within this utopia, he realizes that there are some pretty good questions that need answering, yet commonly get avoided by the staff and guards. As he slowly unearths the answers to these questions and more, Lincoln learns the shocking truth behind The Island and their purpose for living in this controlled state to begin with.

To go further into detail regarding plot points would really risk spoiling some of the film natural progression, and that would be wrong.

Why steal away from something that is at least trying to make something of itself, no matter how small it may be? That said, there are still better and more deserving films awaiting your hard earned dollars at the cinemas right now.

Don’t get me wrong. File The Island away for a rainy day or a nice DVD rental, because it will entertain nonetheless.


Mario Anima

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