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"The Island"

Directed by Michael Bay.
Written by Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.
Starring Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou and Steve Buscemi.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  7/25/05


When you see the names "Ewan McGregor", "Steve Buscemi", "Djimon Hounson" and "Scarlett Johansson", the last thing you expect to see after them is

"...from Michael Bay, the director of 'Armageddon', 'The Rock', and 'Bad Boys', comes 'The Island!'"

In terms of a mismatch, there almost is no peer.  You are almost as likely to see Spielberg directing porn or something.  But, in the spirit that all actors, even great ones, have to take a paycheck every so often, I'm cool with folks selling out to show up in a big-time action flick, so I figured, what the hell, I like "hangin' out", so I'll catch "The Island" on a $6 ticket over the weekend.

Featuring more story than all of the other Michael Bay action films combined, "The Island" follows the lives of a large confined community, where human life is nearly perfect and citizens live on an impossibly regimented schedule in the near future of 2019.  As we--and the poor inhabitants of this community--find out in short order, these people aren't just any, in fact, they are clones of real people living all over the world, being harvested to stay healthy because at some point they will be asked to provide healthy body parts to their sponsor/ which point, the clone will be terminated.  One of those clones seems to be a little smarter than the rest:  Lincoln Six Echo (McGregor), who does some simple deduction in addition to witnessing some fairly unfortunate events, and realizes that whenever a member of the population wins a lottery to go to "the island", that REALLY means going off to pasture...and Lincoln, along with his best buddy Jordan Two Delta (Johansson), isn't having any of that.

I think that the cloning idea is one worth exploring in more movies, and "The Island" does a decent job of creating a world that one needs to take notice of, if not now then certainly in the near future.  Having excellent actors helps the cause, as you get into the plight of the clones as well as those trying to stop anyone from escaping the secret facility.  So, for about an hour or so, you buy into what you are watching, as you are learning what life might be like for those creating solely to serve a purpose and be disposed of in quick fashion.

But then, we move into Michael Bay mode, and in true Michael Bay fashion, almost the entire film gets blown up as car chases, hovercraft battles, shootouts and crazy-big explosions fill the screen as our two hero clones try to break out, with a former Black Ops commander (Hounsou, having no business being in this film) hot on their tail.  By my conservative count, there are at least a dozen "circle shots" in "The Island", the camera technique that I believe Bay & Co. invented while on the set of "Bad Boys", where characters rise from the ground as a camera rises with them and--for no other apparent reason besides looking kinda cool--circles around them to give us a full perspective on how exhausted a character might be.  Other Bay-isms, such as the shaky internal camera while characters are driving down a street (employed extensively in the car chase scene during "The Rock") or dramatic camera angles when characters are simply standing in a hallway, also occur, and there is more product placement in "The Island" than any film I can remember since "Men in Black 2."  Seriously, by the time Lincoln has to look up a person's address at a phone kiosk that features the MSN Search engine, there was audible groaning in my theater.  Hell, even Johnny Rockets gets face time in this flick...come on!

But, for some reason, the film is very watchable.  No, it's not great, but it is easy, really easy in fact, on the mind, on the eyes, on the soul.  It's harmless, really, and due to a PG-13 rating even the normal Bay violence is toned down in this bad shots of characters being impaled by fence poles or heavy amounts of gun violence, just the customary Bay car chase scenes where hundreds of cars are blown to smithereens.  And, while she doesn't do it for me, watching Johansson waltz around with a tight white jump suit on did seem to work for others in my audience.  Catch it soon; it tanked this past weekend and is facing stiff competition from other borderline-shitty action "Stealth!!!"

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09