Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Island

I was hoping this wouldn't end up being like Michael Bay's craptastic Pearl Harbor, and thankfully it didn't. It harkens back to his best film, The Rock, in that it focused on characters more than action. Don't get me wrong, both films have tons and tons of action, but it wasn't what the films were about. I liked Armageddon in spite of that since it was a harmless, yet brainless, good time.

But The Island is by far Michael Bay's crowning achievement. It's part old school sci-fi cautionary tale, part adrenaline pumping summer popcorn flick. It pulls off both parts with aplomb.
In the future there will be a massive global event that will make living outside domed cities impossible. A group of people living inside one of these domes are participants in an ongoing lottery, and if they win they get to take a trip to “The Island”, a mythical place outside the dome that is free of the ravages that plague the planet. Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor), one of the childlike inhabitants of the dome, discovers that what they are being told is a lie and escapes with his friend Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) into the world outside. Together they learn the truth about who they are and the twisted details of their very existence.

The performances are never a high point in Bay's flicks, but here Ewan McGregor gets to pull out all the stops to play not only Lincoln Six Echo, but that character's real life counterpart as well. The scenes they share together are a highlight of the film and go to show why McGregor is one of the best actors in Hollywood.
The same goes for Scarlett Johansson, who never does these types of movies (well, she was in Eight Legged Freaks, but wasn't the female lead) shows off a kind of vulnerability you don't usually see in a summer action flick. It goes a long way to make you root for these characters and their plight.

The FX are spectacular, there is a phenomenal chase scene at the halfway point that not only involves giant barbells and fast moving cars, but hovercycles and marquees falling from 80 stories up. It's freaking awesome! The cinematography is a little overly bright and everything looks muted and shiny, but it's cool. The plot gets a little convoluted toward the end and some characters switch sides at the flip of a coin, but it's all in the name of a good time.
If this flick was rated R it would have gotten a higher score (especially for more Scarlett fever!), but as it is you can't go wrong with this flick. It's smart, fast and fun.

4 out of 5

*written 7/22/05

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