The Island Movie Review

If you're going to clone someone, Scarlett Johansson is a damn good choice. But putting Scarlett in an action movie -- and dying her hair blonde? You can't be serious.

I am serious. And while The Island isn't exactly a great film, the case for Johansson as action starlet has been made, handily.

And oh yeah, there's like a story or something to the movie she's in with Ewan McGregor. Truth be told, McGregor is the star of the show, not Johansson. Oh well, here's the gist, anyway: We're dropped into this universe with little more than a hello and a slap on the ass. McGregor is Lincoln Six Echo, a man living in a super-clean future (2019), but all isn't well. Over the next 30 or 40 minutes, we learn the following: A plague has wiped out almost all life on earth, and the only survivors are now living in a sterile tower with no connection to the outside world.

Newly found "survivors" regularly arrive at the facility, but after going through the "decontamination process" they revert to near-children, unable to read or follow simple instructions. They have to re-learn everything from scratch, with the help of the facility's near-draconian managers, which monitor everything about the residents' lives, from urine content to the number of seconds they can touch a member of the opposite sex. But all the residents have one thing to look forward to: Periodic lotteries which offer the winner a permanent trip to "The Island," the world's only locale not infested with plague.

Deliciously confusing and frequently clever, the first act rapidly immerses us in this futuristic world and lets us chew on what life must be like in this cold tube.

And of course, it's nothing like this at all: Lincoln and his favorite gal Jordan (Johannson) are clones, and their world is a complete lie... which I have to leave at that, lest I spoil the little bit of additional plot there is. Why isn't there more to say? Because after those first 40 minutes, the well runs dry. (It's unsurprising that two of the three writers work on TV's Alias, and the film dies out just when their show would be hitting the closing credits.) After the cool intro, we suddenly realize that we're watching a Michael Bay movie. So people need to start running, and things need to start exploding. Stat.

Now before we all start ripping on Bay, let's remember that he has made some good movies in the past. Ok, he made a good movie, 1996's The Rock. And at least Armageddon and Pearl Harbor proved that he knows how deal with hefty special effects. The Island's all full up in that department: With mammoth sets, incredible action, and wild vehicles (on land, air, and sea), FX fans will not go wanting in the film. (The required car chase, in which enormous train wheels fall from a semi and collide with all manner of vehicles, takes the crown for road-based action from The Matrix Reloaded. The flying motorcycle is pretty cool, too.)

Story fans, however, aren't going to be impressed. After its tantalizing opening, The Island falls flat on its face in the plot department. Lincoln and Jordan spend the next two hours running from cops, scientists, and themselves (comprende?) as they escape the clone factory and try to figure out what to do next. Because of their innocent world view, there isn't a lot of forethought going into any of this, so they pretty much just run, all set to the Michael Bay playbook of low-angle shots, slow-motion, and scenes which conveniently put the sun right behind people's sweaty heads. When the duo fall 70 stories and manage to survive without a scratch, we realize we've long since left any semblance of realism behind.

You'll also find yourself pained by scientific inconsistencies throughout the film: Why are there old clones? How on earth would a clone recover his original self's memories? (The film's explanation is simple: It's impossible, but it happened anyway.) So much of The Island's later revelations smack of plot devices that it starts to get irritating.

In a perfect world, The Island could have been a sort of Minority Report meets The Truman Show. Instead, it ends up being a big-budget Logan's Run, albeit one with a great opening third. But it doesn't last. After 2 1/2 grueling hours of this, you'll be begging for a trip to the island yourself. A real island, I mean. Not the movie.

Express flight to the island leaves now.


The Island Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG-13, 2005


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