The Island (2005) Directed by Michael Bay. With Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan and Ethan Phillips.
Notable for being the debut of screen-writing duo Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, The Island is a mega-budget sci-fi action-thriller directed by Michael Bay. It begins by introducing us to Ewan McGregor as ‘Lincoln Six Echo’, one member of a society of people living in a state of dystopia. They live inside of a sleek, clinical-looking facility. Everyone wears a white tracksuit and Puma sneakers (in Hollywood, there’s always room for product placement) – going about their mundane business in the hope of one day winning the lottery and being taken away to the paradise of ‘the island‘.
Looking back at the career of Michael Bay to date, it is perhaps a toss-up between this and The Rock as examples of his best work. Aside from the inconsistency of McGregor’s US accent, the film begins well. The science-fiction environment is impressively dressed and sets an early sense of promise. We’re then introduced to the lips, blonde hair and big mischievous eyes of Scarlett Johansson. Disappointingly, that’s more-or-less all she’s there for.
As things ramp-up, some of the air begins to bleed out of the tyres, that is until a thrilling motorway chase sequence involving giant dumbbells and masses of destruction. After that, things settle down again, steadily becoming less interesting as the 136min running time begins to stretch our interest.
This being a Michael Bay film, there are plenty of rapid-fire edits of helicopters and vehicles – with many of the outdoor scenes drenched in that orangey glow, with a sickly-looking yellowy-brown and green for indoors. Although it’s mostly restrained (for him), there’s the occasional sexist joke in an exposition-laden script, heavy with clunky dialogue. Thankfully, Steve Buscemi is on-hand to make portions of it sing.
It doesn’t capitalise on a promising start and it squanders the talent of Johansson – yet intermittently, it engages with Bay’s ability to hammer-home the big-budget bravado. What begins with bright potential as an intelligent science-fiction tale, soon degenerates into a category of predictably casual popcorn-fodder. 3/5