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The Island
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2005

Format: Movie
Genre:   Sci-Fi Action
Released:   July 22, 2005
Review Date:   July 29, 2005
Audience Rating:   Rated PG-13
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

Still believe there's an island? — Lincoln Six Echo

Great science fiction poses great questions behind the exterior of the fantastic. What does it mean to be human? Is who we are an innate quality, or are we the sum of our experiences? How far can our technology go before it extends beyond our morality?

Summer popcorn sci-fi action movies use these questions to justify big explosions, intense chase scenes and cool high-tech toys. Some films do delve a little deeper into these questions, like Minority Report, while others barely even nod in their direction, like Total Recall. The Island falls a bit between the two.

The premise is that sometime after 2020 there was a huge environmental disaster that contaminated the world, making it almost totally unsurvivable outside a huge, sealed complex where most of the survivors live, and an unspoiled paradise island where the human population is being restored.

Everyone in the complex wears similar white leotards and wrist bracelets they use as keys, identification and ATM cards. Life in the complex is pretty regimented. Meals are regulated, sleep is monitored, and interaction between men and women is limited by the laws of proximity, which basically says “hands off.” It’s a peaceful if bland existence.

This is why they all hope to win the Lottery, which randomly selects who will get to go to the island paradise of the title. There they will get to lie in the sun, swim in the ocean and make babies to repopulate the world.

Everyone’s pretty content with this existance, except four our hero, Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan “Young Obi-Wan” McGregor.) He questions his job, why everyone has to wear the same uniforms, who runs the complex, and why he can’t have bacon for breakfast every day.

We follow Lincoln's routine in the complex, see his work, and meet his friends, including the man who runs the place, Doctor Merrick (Sean “Boromir” Bean), and love interest Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett “Ghost World” Johansson). They are friends who hang out after work and compete against each other in videogame sports. After an evening's match, Jordan wins the lottery and a trip to the island.

If Lincoln’s concerns were pointless, we wouldn’t have much of a movie. But he sneaks out from his job and heads down into the industrial sector to meet with his friend, maintenance Supervisor McCord (Steve “Also in Ghost World” Buscemi), who slips Lincoln contraband booze.

When McCord is called off to work, Lincoln finds a bug zipping around the maintenance area. This fascinates him, as all insects are supposed to be dead. So Lincoln follows it around and discovers the truth, which if you’ve seen the trailers for the movie, you know: He and all his people are really clones. Instead of going to an island paradise, they are harvested for their organs.

Horrified, Lincoln runs back into the complex, grabs Jordan, and they make their escape from the complex, out into the real world. Knowing that if these two fugitives make it to civilization it will ruin his company and put an end to his medical research (“I am two years away from curing leukemia!”), Merrick hires an elite mercenary team lead by Albert Laurent (Djimon “Gladiator” Hounsou) to recapture our heroes.

Here we pretty much leave the realm of thoughtful science fiction and head into action-land.

Now this is a Michael (“The Rock”) Bay movie, which means you can expect certain things. Intense action, long and close in shots where the camera spins around the characters, and very pretty visuals. The acting and plotting in his movies can be a bit spotty. While Bad Boys and Armageddon were fun, Bad Boys 2 and Pearl Harbor were so bad that Bay (justly) earned a parody song in Team America.

Thankfully, this time he does a good job.The only real real problem is that apparently, Michael Bay went and saw the two Bourne movies and decided the hand-held camera was the way to film parts of the action scenes. While the shaking camera does give a bit of an intense “you are there” feel to the action, it can also make it very hard to follow. Still, Bay delivers on the pulse-pounding action with some great chase scenes that deliver the goods.

On the acting side, everyone does a great job. There’s Michael Clark (“The Green Mile”) Duncan in an extended cameo. Bean’s driven Merrick, Hounsou’s noble merc, Lincoln’s quirky friends, and Buscemi’s twitchiness keep all the side characters interesting. McGregor and Johansson make a good set of heroes, and working in Lucas’ digital playground really helped McGregor for the scenes where he meets the other Lincoln. The shots there are seamless and quite fun.

The Island is a sci-fi action popcorn flick that feels like a cross between Logan’s Run and The Clonus Horror, with bits of The Rock sprinkled on top.

While it’s neither deep nor thoughtful, and not likely to leave you pondering its questions once you leave the theater, it is a very fun action flick. Its cool action scenes, effects, and sleek toys are worth seeing on the big screen, even if they will soon be forgotten.

RevolutionSF contributor Gary Mitchel is still waiting for a ticket to go to a tropical island and procreate with Scarlett Johansson.

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