Directed by Michael Bay. Starring Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Steve Buscemi, Sean Bean, Michael Clarke Duncan. (2005, PG-13, 127 min.)
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., July 22, 2005
If you like Maxim, you will love The Island. It is glossy. It is expensive. It has lots of slick ads for Aquafina and Cadillac. It’s full of beautiful people in tracksuits and Pumas, and it takes an interesting young actress (Johansson) and transforms her into a talking blow-up doll with platinum-blond extensions and Lip Venom. It sort of purports to be about something thought-provoking (human cloning), so you don’t feel totally humiliated buying it; this is only the finest Hollywood cheese, a carefully aged Parmigiano Reggiano from the DreamWorks vault. Not sold yet? Here comes the closer: Shit blows up real good. There’s a car chase through a futuristic Los Angeles that makes the freeway pursuit segment from The Matrix Reloaded look like a couple of kids on tricycles riding down Avenue H. Oh yeah, we’ve got flying motorcycles! Take that! Seemingly intent to prove that he can out-Bruckheimer his former mentor and producer, director Bay pumps each scene up with so much adrenaline your logical mind will be totally unable to process the dystopic story, which would be interesting if Bay weren’t flinging the camera around hyperactively in every single shot. One virtual-reality fight scene is full of so many cuts and tilts that for all we know Bea Arthur could be on the soundstage roundhousing Estelle Getty. Bay can’t even shoot a plain old exterior establishing shot without zooming and whirling around dramatically. He’s turned his leads into posable action figures – when they actually get to sit still and act, it comes as a shock that they still remember how – and I might feel sorry for them if the ka-ching! of the cash register weren’t faintly audible through the Sturm und Drang of Steve Jablonsky’s wall-to-wall score of ominous choral voices and tom-toms of war. It’s the kind of movie where a semi-truck driver doesn’t even check his rear-view mirror when 15 SUVs explode behind him, but the story still insists on its own intelligence and philosophical nature. If you think about it too much, you might start to feel like one of the cloned human beings in McGregor’s underground laboratory: force-fed, confined, and constantly distracted with bright shiny things to keep you from asking the essential question: "Why am I here?"