Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Island

I saw The Island a few years ago and noticed that it was on TV again so decided to give it a second watch. It didn’t make a huge impression on me the first time around but I remembered being interested by the opening act and Scarlett Johansson is in it so… I had a vague recollection of her in a tight, white jump suit so had to watch it again. As it transpired I was correct about the costume and Johansson looks incredible. I also correctly remembered the opening half an hour and it was still an interesting concept even though it was slightly diminished due to knowledge of any potential twists. What I’d forgotten though were the seemingly endless car chases and explosions which accompany the second hour of the movie. These were almost unwatchable due to the quick cutting and despite everything going on, felt really boring.

In the years following an untold natural disaster the world has become too contaminated for humans to live outside. The few survivors live in a deeply regulated and controlled facility in which every aspect of their life is measured and organized by those in charge. One of the few survivors is Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) who begins asking questions about his surroundings and the rules he is forced to follow. He becomes friendly with Jordan Two Delta (Johansson) who is the winner of a lottery to live out the rest of her life on ‘The Island’ the last uncontaminated place on Earth. Lincoln is worried though that not everything is as it seems and tries looking for answers.

On both watches but especially on the first I really enjoyed the world inside the isolated compound. It reminded me of some of the greats in the science fiction genre such as Logan’s Run or George Lucas’ THX 1138. The ultra white world was wonderfully designed and worked really well. It was full of slow sweeping corners and clean lines which acted as a total opposite to the second half of the movie which was a disjointed mess of quick cutting and explosions. There are twists which even on my first watch I was able to second guess but I still went with the story. I just can’t believe that I’d forgotten about the second half which is much more in keeping with the rest of Director Michael Bay’s work.

There may be other actors in the film but I didn't really notice
During the fast paced and frankly terrible second half there is one scene in which a helicopter crashes into a building logo on a skyscraper inside which Johansson and McGregor are hiding. The logo falls seventy stories with exploding helicopter attached and the two stars climb out at the bottom after hitting some strategically placed netting. This is but one example of the over the top and ridiculous set pieces which make up the film’s concluding half. The movie was working perfectly well before the mess of car chases and fire balls and it turned a decent three star film into something instantly forgettable. The fast cutting of the action scenes was like a scene in a science fiction horror movie in which your eyes are held open while the bad guys force you watch the entire history of the world in thirty seconds. It was really badly done and I wasn’t able to see what was happening or why. There is a short section in which the action calmed down for a while which was once again enjoyable but soon the cast were back out on the road being chased by all sorts of baddies and it became tiresome again. There is also one disgraceful scene which evokes the Holocaust which I thought was entirely distasteful and totally out of place.

There are some fairly decent performances in the film which are worth noting. Ewan McGregor, despite a slightly dodgy American accent is very good and well cast and Scarlett Johansson can do little wrong in my eyes. She is pretty good but has the occasional strange and out of place scream. This is probably down to direction rather than performance though. There is a nice cameo from Steve Buscemi which was great and Sean Bean is ok too. Djimon Hounsou turns up as the ex Special Forces guy but has very little to do besides hang out of helicopters and look cross. Overall there is the beginning of a good movie in The Island but then over an hour of shouting, explosions and car chases which were boring and unnecessary. The acting is fine and the story has its moments but the Direction is disastrous.  



  1. The first half is definitely the better half of The Island, I can never really remember anything that happens after the escape, other than bits of the ending, and Steve Buscemi. What would have been a thought provoking sci-fi becomes a run of the mill blockbuster actioner, which is hardly surprising given the director.

    1. I was exactly the same. It was just the first bit that I remembered.

  2. I don't even remember the Holocaust thing, which is probably for the best.

    I do want to rewatch this one some day, though. You mentioned how it reminded you of THX 1138 and Logan's Run, but I prefer to say it ripped that shit right off. Right down to - as you mentioned - the whole place being completely white and sterile. Hmmmmm....where's Robert Duvall?

    haha, I forgot about the helicopter crash and the logo-hanging. Stupid. Ah, I'm remembering more and more why I hated this movie.

    1. The second half is just a parade of ridiculousness and explosions. The holocaust thing comes when the baddies put all the Echo series into these giant ovens when they think they're going to The Island. It's unbelievable.

  3. nicely written man. It's been quite a while since I've seen The Island but this review very eloquently puts some images back in my head as to why I've forgotten this film so quickly -- hahah. And because it's been such a long while I also have forgotten about the Holocaust-esque scene but I'm sure it was inappropriately placed (knowing Michael Bay). well done man.

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