The Island (2005) Movie Review

Since the makers of “The Island” already decided that secrecy was pointless, as the film’s main draw depended on the audience being lured in by said plot device (and in truth, it’s the only decision they could have made), let’s dispense with the secrets, shall we? “The Island ” is set in a futuristic world where clones are artificially bred and kept confined within a sterile environment where they are fed and kept healthy until their real-world counterparts need a body part from them. Or in some cases, until the clone women gives birth, after which the babies will be extracted and hand over to the loving couple that paid top dollar for the clone ($5 million per clone, apparently). As a way to keep the clones oblivious to their true purpose, the corporation has invented The Island, supposedly the “last pathogen-free place” in the world, the rest of the world having been “contaminated” and made unlivable. Of course none of this is true, but our clones don’t know it. Yet.

So there you have it. The main plot of “The Island”, Michael Bay ‘s take on cloning, and quite possibly the most intelligent film the oft disparaged director has done in his career. The film stars Ewan McGregor, sporting an attention-getting mole directly in the middle of his forehead, as a clone named Lincoln Six Echo. Lincoln is the curious type (Why do his clothes only come in white?), and when we are first introduced to him, he’s having nightmares about The Island and his disastrous attempts to get to it with fellow hottie clone Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson, who looks rather fetching in white). Lincoln ‘s constant questioning (Why can’t he have bacon? And what the hell is tofu, and who decided that he liked eating it?) becomes a subject for Merrick (perennial bad guy Sean Bean), the “doctor” who runs the facility (and as it turns out, the owner of the cloning corporation).

Merrick ‘s troubles with Lincoln only get worst when the clone discovers the truth and sets off to escape with Jordan in tow. Luckily for our two fugitives, they get help from greasy monkey wrench McCord (played by greasy actor Steve Buscemi), who fills in the two clueless kids on the truth. Unfortunately for our runaway couple, Merrick has purchased the services of ex-Special Forces mercenary Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou) to track down his lost “products”. Then again, considering how easily Lincoln and Jordan accidentally dispatch of Laurent’s supposedly ex-Special Forces soldiers, maybe it’s not such bad luck after all. (I guess when he called them Special Forces, Laurent meant that his men were “special”. Get it?) And for a guy whose entire operation (worth billions upon billions) is a closely guarded secret from not only his clients, but also the U.S. Government, Merrick sure hires some awfully undependable employees, as can be evidenced by McCord.

For a Michael Bay film, there is a surprisingly sophisticated, even intelligent first hour, but alas this is a ” Michael Bay film”, which translates into the second half being one long chase where Laurent’s hapless ex-“special” forces hunt Lincoln and Jordan through a futuristic L.A. As with a lot of the action scenes in Bay’s films, the sequences here goes on for much too long, with a lot of expensive stuff blowing up real good. Most of the time you’re ready for the sequence to end about 5 minutes in, but they just keep going and going, and after a while all you can think about is how much this particular action sequence is costing. If you’ve seen enough of movies like “The Island”, it’s easy to understand why Hollywood Summer fare costs as much as they do.

In any case, the film’s highlight isn’t even any of its abundant action sequences, but a brief interlude where Lincoln finally comes face to face with his “sponsor”, the real Tom Lincoln (also played by McGregor). The real Tom, we learn, is from Scotland (as is McGregor), and speaks with a heavy Scottish accent, while the clone Lincoln does not. In a funny bit, the clone Lincoln starts to imitate the real Tom, who tells him to cut it out because it’s freaking him out. The real Lincoln , it also turns out, is something of a philandering lush who, when presented with the opportunity, immediately tries to get into Jordan ‘s pants.

Unfortunately there’s just not a lot of intelligence to be found in the second half, and through the endless chases and exploding objects, one can’t help but wish the story had never left Merrick’s clone buildings, because things were so much more interesting when we didn’t know what was outside. After a while, you wonder how leading man Ewan McGregor can summon up the strength to still act when the film has devolve so much beyond the initial premise. Co-star Scarlett Johansson is wholly wasted, her role basically consisting of mindless pep when inside the institute and running and screaming when outside it. The role is certainly nothing that a critically acclaimed actress with some real acting chops should have taken, and is more of a role for an unknown actress with a pretty face.

You have to wonder about “The Island’s” full potential if only the second half had a tiny fraction of the brains showcased in the first hour. Instead of Hounsou and his faceless mercenaries chasing Lincoln and Jordan on hoverbikes, why not more funny dialogue from Lincoln about why clothes that only come in white sucks because it keeps getting dirty. And who exactly washes his clothes when he hands them over, only to have them magically appear in his drawers the next morning? There’s a really paranoid, but funny, film here. In fact, if the entire Outside sequences had been excised completely, leaving a movie about a guy in an enclosed surrounding who can’t figure out why things are the way they are, and keeps asking questions, and trying to find out The Truth…

Then again, maybe it’s just me.

Michael Bay (director) / Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Caspian Tredwell-Owen (screenplay)
CAST: Ewan McGregor…. Lincoln Six Echo/Tom Lincoln
Scarlett Johansson….Jordan Two Delta/Sarah Jordan
Djimon Hounsou….Albert Laurent
Sean Bean….Merrick
Steve Buscemi….McCord
Michael Clarke Duncan….Stark weather
Ethan Phillips….Jones Three Echo

Buy The Island on DVD