Fancy a win on the lottery?
THERE’S A good 90-minute thriller inside The Island, shame the film is 136 minutes long! Ewan McGregor is pretty good as Lincoln Six-Echo, a worker in a sealed futuristic city who has the audacity to think there must be more to life. Such thinking nearly gets him and fellow worker Jordan Two-Delta (Johansson) killed, as they go on the run to uncover a giant conspiracy.
It is fairly obvious things aren’t right from early on. For a start, Merrick, the city’s head honcho, is Sean Bean dressed in black, and the glitzy lottery promising the winners life on earth’s last uncontaminated spot, The Island, is advertised with phrases like your time will come. This is what passes for subtlety in a Michael Bay film.
It’s a pity Bay hasn’t enough confidence to keep things simple. Afraid of losing the audience’s attention, he pushes out chase after chase, overdosing on helicopters, explosions and noise; however, the over the top action sequences do provide adrenaline charged entertainment.
Like Tarantino, he is a filmmaker influenced by other films and so there are lots of conspicuously borrowed parts. It’s as if The Island dunked its arm into the well of the sci-fi movie universe and came out with ingredients for a consummate watered-down pastiche. Elements of Logan’s Run, THX-1138, Minority Report, The Matrix, Blade Runner, and more, all show up in one way or another.
The film, set in the not too distant future, makes another pessimistic forecast – humans have become obsessed with living forever in perfect, youthful bodies. This time, human cloning makes it possible. The clones are bred in underground petri dishes and kept alive as spare parts for rich people. They are raised in a special facility and brainwashed to believe they are survivors of an apocalypse, an event that made the outside world uninhabitable.
The facility is a sterile environment of concrete, glass and steel, where human traits such as curiosity and sexuality are kept strictly in check. The clones’ only hope is to win a lottery and go to The Island, the earth’s only pathogen-free zone.
When Lincoln’s best friend Jordan is chosen, he discovers the gruesome truth and they break out of the facility. This doesn’t sit well with the director, Merrick, who has told his clients that the clones are kept in a vegetative state and never feel human emotions. He realises he needs to keep a lid on the situation, otherwise he’ll lose billions of dollars in government subsidies. So what better way to hush everything up than to hire a gang of mercenaries to decimate half of Los Angeles, hunting down the clones while killing countless cops?
What’s worse is that the plot is riddled with action film clichés, including weapons placed conveniently within reach, elevators that open and close just in time and characters who provide critical aid but are quickly dispatched. However, the stars sell their roles as the innocents who are thrust into the real world, saving Bay from ridicule. Complementing their performances is Djimon Hounsou as the lead mercenary, who comes to regard the clones more highly than the supposedly superior humans.
It is pretty good and goes down easily, but that is its weakness – sci-fi is meant to be challenging and once we establish we’re on the side of the escaping clones, we just follow along.
It is hard to swallow Lincoln and Jordan’s dangerous flight, considering they were introduced to us as childlike innocents with little knowledge of the real world. It’s on the outside that The Island takes on an originality of its own. Our heroes meet up with facility worker McCord (Buscemi), who explains what and who they are, and soon they are on the hunt for their owners.
McGregor’s gee-whiz Lincoln is a hilarious contrast to that of the real Tom Lincoln (also played by McGregor). He is wonderful in the duo role, managing to maintain the subtle differences between the almost identical characters. Less impressive this time around is Johansson, whose performance pretty much relies on the actions of her energetic co-star.