Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Island (2005) Film Review
Reviewed by: The Exile
It's almost a rite of passage: beloved indie star (in this case, Scarlett Johansson) gets sucked in by Hollywood action director with more confidence than ability. This time it's Michael Bay doing the sucking, while Johansson and Ewan McGregor pose in clinging white bodysuits and interact with more flying debris than the cast of War Of The Worlds. For McGregor, already deflowered by George Lucas, this is a walk in the park. For Johansson, it might as well be Armageddon.
To be fair, the 21-year-old actress, whose breasts are filmed at all times for maximum thrust, committed to the project on the strength of a dark, intelligent script by British writer Caspian Tredwell-Owen (Beyond Borders). Clearly underestimating her director's ability to ruin a great story - didn't she see Pearl Harbor? - Johansson skipped the meeting where Alias scribes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman were hired to re-work the script to Bay's typically lurid specifications. One wonders why they didn't just hire Jennifer Garner and be done with it.
Set in the not-too-distant (and hence not-too-expensive) 2050, The Island would have been coolly mysterious for at least the first 30 minutes had it not already climaxed in the previews. McGregor plays a debonair clone named Lincoln Six Echo, one of hundreds of similarly attired copies. (In the future, fashion designers seem to be extinct, though hairdressers inexplicably survive.) Housed in a special facility resembling a giant cafeteria, the clones, known simply as "Products" to their corporate creators, are unaware they were conceived in petri dishes and gestated in giant breast implants. Instead, they believe the world has been depopulated by a lethal pathogen and they are the only survivors.
The film is a direct descendant of Michael Crichton's Coma, from which it steals at least one major scene. Minority Report contributes the little spider-like "microsensors," which crawl into Lincoln's eyes, while the Replicants of Blade Runner supply the idea for the clones' scripted memories. The plagiarizing of sci-fi cinema is shameless, but the Herb-Ritts-meets-Demolition-Monthly sensibility is all Bay's. And if we make our peace with this, some of the film is even enjoyable, particularly when Lincoln escapes the cafeteria with Jordan Two Delta (Johansson) and confronts his "owner" (also played by McGregor, but with full Scottish accent). McGregor has a sly self-awareness in these scenes - he knows he's being silly and doesn't care if it shows.
Though most of the dialogue is of the "Run!" and "Look out!" variety - a 15-minute nap can safely be enjoyed between the second and third acts - the fact that the clones are innocent of all experience provides Bay with some of his best moments. "Are these your friends?" asks Jordan of a ratty little mechanic (who else but Steve Buscemi?), gazing at a wall, covered in cheap pinups. And when a sleek motorcycle whizzes past on the highway, Jordan freezes. "What was that?" she asks. "I don't know," replies Lincoln, "but I want one!" No exchange has ever captured more perfectly Bay's love of automobile porn.
Fast, furious and Calvin Klein-ad slick, The Island delivers exactly what we expect. Bay's mind may seldom rise above his waistband and his glossy gaze may turn even real actors into Ken and Barbie, but without him where would lowest-common-denominator cinema be?Reviewed on: 12 Aug 2005