The world has been infected with a deadly contagion, forcing people to live in a futuristic sanctuary where their every outburst is recorded and every bite of food closely monitored. While these people are alive and well, they also lead seemingly pointless lives where they are forced to do mundane tasks and are not allowed to touch the opposite sex. Of course, if you've seen any one of the previews for "The Island" you know that this isn't the reality these people live in - and, you probably know the entire plot from start to finish.
Directed by Michael Bay, a man who is criticized time and time again for delivering glossy movies with little story and no characters, "The Island" is his most valiant effort to date. Whether you like his movies or not, one thing is certain: you will not be bored. He has a knack for creating absolutely awesome action sequences - which is strange since the strongest part of the movie is the action-less first half. Bay may be his own worst enemy as he obviously attempted to make a film that goes beyond just action, but it is clear that halfway through he ran out of ideas and reverted back to what he does best. The result is an entertaining and at times intriguing sci-fi flick that could have used less action and more storyline to finish things off.
Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson star as two clones who discover the horrifying truth about what they are - that the world is not in fact a desert wasteland but a thriving community, and that they have been created for the simple use of spare parts. Blame the marketing departments of Dreamworks and Warner Brothers for completely giving away the one big twist of the movie; why they decided to do this is beyond me. The first half of the film is intriguing, but could have been absolutely spellbinding had I not been able to predict every moment. The trailers literally show the entire film from beginning to end; if I were Bay I would be furious for allowing his most unique project to date to become a standard and predictable treatment.
McGregor and Johansson are both good actors, but given the script they have to work with there is nothing notable here. The last half of the movie basically consists of the two characters shouting "Run!" to one another, while other cool actors such as Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan and Djimon Hounsou are wasted with minimally interesting roles. Sean Bean gets the most screen time, but isn't he tired of playing the bad guy?
In the end, "The Island" is a fun and exciting movie, but it feels like two movies uncomfortably meshed together. The first half whets your appetite for a complex third act, but instead "The Island" turns into a formulaic action movie. While the action is pretty cool at times, it is never as good as some of Bay's other action movies. For instance, the kickass car chase here is pretty cool, but it still pales in comparison to the car chase sequence from "Bad Boys 2." It's also hard to buy into the fact that the two leads go from clones who know nothing about the real world to being able to outrun trained assassins time and time again and ultimately strike back.
Despite its shortcomings, "The Island" is a slick and entertaining thrill ride, with cool sets, great special effects and a neat if not predictable premise. The special effects are easily some of the best I've seen, and pretty much in every way and form "The Island" beats out McGregor's other sci-fi action film of the year, a little-known film called "Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith."
It's not perfect and it would have been nice to see less emphasis on action and more on story, but "The Island" is well worth seeing in theaters.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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