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"The Island" Movie Review

Great Action Sequences Save "The Island" From Sinking

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Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson star in

Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson star in "The Island"

© DreamWorks Pictures
Michael Bay’s attitude is ‘damn the critics’ (he actually used a much harsher, none PG-rated expression). He’s learned through much experience critics in general detest his work. Smart man.

Bay’s “The Island” is actually two films with vastly different styles struggling for possession of the screen. The debate over the moral implications of cloning humans is addressed but then falls by the wayside as Bay decides to scrap the semi-intelligence of the first half of the film in lieu of cramming as many stunts and product placements into the second half of “The Island” as feasibly possible.

The first thing you think of when Bay’s name is mentioned is his penchant for over-the-top action. And after setting up the story for the first half of “The Island,” Bay turns to doing what he does best. He creates an eye-popping, in your face, bombastic, action-packed second half with enough chase scenes and explosions to satisfy even the most demanding action fan. While the action is definitely riveting, it leaves you in a daze wondering what happened to the story Bay started out telling.

Ewan McGregor stars as Lincoln Six-Echo, a white jumpsuit wearing, tennis shoe missing young man who is having bad dreams and who increasingly questions the world around him. Also clad in a clingy white jumpsuit is Scarlett Johansson as Jordan Two-Delta. Actually everyone in the world these two inhabit wear white jumpsuits. It’s the required uniform in the sanitary, sterile, carefully controlled facility in which they live.

The facility residents, all of whom have their food intake monitored and their health checked on a continual basis, live for just one thing: to be chosen to win a trip to The Island. Supposedly The Island is the only place that wasn’t contaminated when an ecological disaster wiped out the entire population of Earth.

But something’s literally bugging Lincoln Six-Echo. When he discovers a moth inside the building, he starts to question where it came from. If one moth exists, what else is outside the walls? The old expression curiosity killed the cat can also be applied to clones as Lincoln Six-Echo grabs Jordan Two-Delta and hightails it out of the facility, with a whole slew of security people (and a squad of professional killers) ordered to hunt them down.

Once in the real world, Lincoln Six-Echo and Jordan Two-Delta - with the help of Steve Buscemi as a facility worker who sets them straight – figure out they’re clones. They’re merely living beings created to be used as harvest material should their human counterparts become sick or need spare parts. Pissed off and immediately deciding they’d rather live with all their extremities and internal organs intact, thank you very much, they set off to find the people who had them created – the real humans who paid to be cloned.

Bay puts McGregor, Johannson, and their stunt doubles through the wringer during the latter part of the film as he packs in car chases, a fall from a 20+ story building, and a wild ride on a flying rocketbike. By far the best scene of the film takes place during Bay’s action tirade when McGregor as Lincoln Six-Echo pushes gigantic rear wheel assemblies off of a tractor trailer and into the path of his pursuers. Incredibly well done and original, that scene actually had me gripping my armrests.

Ewan McGregor used to balance out performances in big-budget studio films with roles in smaller, indie films, but lately he’s been on a big studio roll. “Big Fish,” “Robots” and “Star Wars,” weren’t offset by the more intense dramatic turns we’ve come to expect from the Scottish actor. And that’s okay, and it’s not to say all indie films are gems and all studio films are throw-aways. But as a McGregor fan, I’m ready to see him return to smaller projects.

Although he’s terrific in “The Island” – much better than the material should have allowed him to be – it’s time for him to do something more edgy. As for Scarlett Johannson, she's wasted in a role that only requires her to look pretty and act helpless.

If you decide to see “The Island,” my advice is to check your brain at the door. You may be tempted to analyze the film's meaning, but that’ll only leave you with a pounding headache. Bay leaves huge plot holes, particularly concerning the creation of clones and what they know and don’t know. It’s never explained why the company that creates the clones can make adults but not babies. And whenever Bay wants to insert humor, he does it by having his clones act like ditzy pre-teens with minimal knowledge of the world. Yet in the 10 minutes preceding the jokes, they exhibit higher intelligence and the ability to logically reason things out. And as soon as they are told they’re clones, their deductive reasoning skills miraculously increase.

If you’re looking for a Michael Bay movie with a purpose, this isn’t it. If you can set aside the story and just watch “The Island” for what it is - a big summer popcorn flick - then it won’t disappoint.

GRADE: C+

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