Film Reviews

THE ISLAND (Victoria)

By • Jul 22nd, 2005 •

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DreamWorks and Warner Bros. Pictures present a Parkes/MacDonald production
MPAA rating PG-13 / Running Time: 133 minutes.

QUOTE: Michael Bay finally accepts the challenge of an intelligent script. He doesn’t screw it up.

Entertainment Weekly’s July 22nd cover story on Michael Bay’s THE ISLAND gives us insight into the workings of the lowliest of Hollywood players: the original writer of a screenplay. British screenwriter Caspian Tredwell-Owen (BEYOND BORDERS) wrote THE ISLAND and got it to King Steven Spielberg. Spielberg sent it to Michael Bay after Dreamworks brought the story for a million dollars. After Bay decided to direct it, Tredwell-Owen’s script, said Entertainment Weekly, ‘had to be properly Bay-ified. Step one was simple: Get rid of Tredwell-Owen.’ ‘We worked with Caspian for maybe three, four weeks,’ Bay remembers. ‘It didn’t work.’ Two rising young stars were brought in – Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.?

Since Entertainment Weekly failed to interview Tredwell-Owen, we can assume his next screenplay is already optioned by Dreamworks or Bay. Maybe he will direct. In any case, a million dollars gross is a nice ‘Bay-ified’ kiss-off.

Perhaps it was Tredwell-Owen, or Kurtzman and Orci (THE LEGEND OF ZORRO, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3, and THE TRANSFORMERS), in any case the questions about cloning and how THE ISLAND deals with male passivity and the lack of human aggression are adequately explained. Because, how do you have a masculine hero-star without an ounce of testosterone? And what about sexual urges?

Whether you buy the premise or not, the writers have an explanation for all the questions you will raise.

Ewan McGregor is a skilled actor who realized the limitations of his character had to be subliminally handled through a roundabout sexual presence. Because, in effect, every character in THE ISLAND is a child treated like The Baby Jesus (or Prince William).

The story is quite a bit of fun: Its 2090 and there are thousands of people who are damn lucky to have survived a worldwide contamination. Living a highly restricted, oppressive life in a huge antiseptic shelter, their every moment is monitored. Nightly, there is a lottery and one lucky person is randomly selected to leave the shelter and go to the only reservoir of uncontaminated freedom: The Island. There is a large group of men and women who work in this structured environment led by Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean). He doesn’t wear a white jumpsuit.

The white jumpsuit de-sexualizes the ‘product.’ The product is very valuable so everything about ‘it’ is watched and recorded. It has to be since the product is an expensive insurance policy against disease, accident, genetic faults, or just plain wear-and-tear. Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson) are two products of this highly sophisticated genetics program worth 215 billion dollars.

THE ISLAND is entertaining since it is rooted in the hope for immortality. This is exactly the way human thinking is headed. After all, why should billionaires have everything and then die? Yes, death is wonderfully democratic, but should it really apply to everyone, rich and dirt poor alike? In the future, the truly wealthy will indeed have everything, and that means even more life than you and me. Right now, the fact that Bill Gates and all those Walton heirs will die one day makes no sense. Is it fair that several billion dollars, and being on top of the human pyramid, can’t buy immortality?

I’m always shocked when rich people die. I’m certain big money can buy advanced health care not available at the local hospital.* Are uber-rich people ever at the bottom of organ lists? Billionaires live long lives. Look at Rupert Murdoch. Isn’t he 90 years old?

Back to THE ISLAND. So, instead of a sexual urge, Lincoln has one trait Dr. Merrick never saw in his products before: curiosity. Sure, some other products complain about their jaw-breaking momentous jobs and the reason why they never win The Island lottery, but only Lincoln has the urge to find out what is actually going on. Once Jordan wins the lottery and is scheduled to leave for The Island, Lincoln’s feelings for her surface. He wants to find out what is really going on. Lincoln has a reluctant friend, a disgruntled facility employee, McCord (Steve Buscemi), who wises him up. Lincoln and Jordan escape. There is no Island.

Dr. Merrick becomes frantic and hires ex-Special Forces commander Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou) to do everything and start a nuclear war to eliminate the wayward products. In doing so, director Bay unleashes destruction, death, and his personal Bay-ified brand of relentless mayhem, car crashes, and monstrous freeway chases.

It doesn’t let up. Bay knows how to excite and raise the audience’s adrenaline. THE ISLAND is a roller coaster ride with a story we can all embrace. Why not have a personal clone coddled and watched 24/7 until you need it?

Since I already spoiled the surprise that there is no Island, I will avoid the neat surprises ahead as Lincoln and Jordan hunt their owners. Here is where McGregor’s strong acting enhances the movie. And, I’m going to forgive Bay the crass product placement since he told Entertainment Weekly he had to do it to get cash to meet the $120 million production over-costs denied him by Dreamworks.

*Las Vegas’s Roy Horn, of Siegfred & Roy, recently returned from Europe after spending five weeks at the Leonardis Clinic in Germany undergoing stem-cell treatments.


Cast:
Lincoln Six Echo/Tom Lincoln: Ewan McGregor
Jordan Two Delta/Sarah Jordan: Scarlett Johansson
Albert Laurent: Djimon Hounsou
Dr. Merrick: Sean Bean
McCord: Steve Buscemi
Starkweather: Michael Clarke Duncan

Credits:
Director: Michael Bay
Writers: Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci
Story by: Caspian Tredwell-Owen
Producers: Walter Parkes, Michael Bay, Ian Bryce
Executive producer: Laurie MacDonald
Director of photography: Mauro Fiore
Production designer: Nigel Phelps
Music: Steve Jablonsky
Costumes: Deborah L. Scott
Editors: Paul Rubell, Christian Wagner

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