More noise than signal

The Island

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com

I don’t have a great many things in my life, and seeing as I’d quite like to keep those things I’ll lightly skip over the pending litigation betwixt the creators of this and the surprisingly similarly themed Parts: The Clonus Horror. More important to the purpose at hand is the creator of this shiny new big budget outing, Michael Bay. Please try to avoid the involuntary shudder that creates, as it’s not really fair to prejudge the film purely on his recent track record. Although in this case, entirely accurate.

The Island is essentially a colossal turd. A colossal, wet, steaming, fragrant bowel fruit. That’s probably not a great place to start a review though. The Island is essentially another of Bay’s production line action flicks, but at least the concept shows a little more imagination than, say Bad Boys II. Damning. Faint praise.

Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) are happy little workers in a facility that looks something like a cross between an oil rig and the spaceship from 2001. Their benevolent doctor/leader Merrick (Sean Bean) tells them they’re the precious few untainted survivors of ‘The Contamination’, which sounds a little bit nasty, and that they’re working to preserve humanity and win a chance to retire to ‘The Island’, the last pure bit of the Earth to rebuild the race. This is a somewhat inaccurate representation.

Lincoln and Jordan turn out, as should be of no surprise to anyone having heard vaguely of this film, to be clones of folks rich enough to be able to pony up the dough for a personal spare part repository. Shock, Horror, etc. While most of the clones are conditioned to be content in Merrick’s little kingdom, Lincoln starts to question his surroundings and his very purpose in life. This existential sidetrip is thankfully short-lived after discovering in part through the unwitting help of friendly grease monkey supervisor McCord (Steve Buscemi) that his surroundings are a lie and his purpose is to be a liver transplant for architect Tom Lincoln.

Seeing as Jordan has just ‘won’ the lottery, Lincoln swiftly creates a new purpose in life – save his friend from being harvested for her juicy, pert organs.Busting out of the facility they head off in search of their real life counterparts, for want of a better idea. Again aided by McComb, they make it to the big smoke narrowly escaping Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou)’s elite security agents called in by Merrick, all ex-Navy Seals and so on meaning that in accordance with all movie logic they’re completely useless in combat situations and are easily outwitted by people who, we are told, have been educated to the level of fifteen year olds. At this point the film essentially turns into Bad Boys II, albeit slightly more boring and a shade more offensively stupid.

Displaying all of the trademark bullshit Bay has been flinging at celluloid like congealed lumps of his own faeces ever since inadvertently making a good film in the shape of 1996’s The Rock, The Island turns out to be the most lavishly dull film there’s ever been. It’s got helicopters being crushed by falling building logos. A giant fan demolishes half of a building. Just about every car in a five mile radius of the camera explodes. There’s a hoverbike chase, for God’s sake! How is it possible to make all of this action produce the same emotional high points as would be generated by mowing the lawn?

Not precisely sure, but I’d imagine much of it is the contempt Bay seems to hold his audience in. See Laurent’s last second change of heart to get our heroes out of a nasty scrape in polar opposite of everything his character would be expected to do, and utterly contrary to his established ‘no prisoners/no witnesses’ attitude that sees him casually order the deaths of any innocent coppers who get in between him and his target. Not the sort of man given to attacks of conscience. Bay’s utter disdain for the audience, for you, shines through like a blazing, pointless sun. Hell, you’re not even given a chance to think about the ethics of the situation as it’s all been defined in the ‘Eugenics laws of 2050’. Sleep, peons, Bay utters, sleep and watch my shit fly apart in slow-mo. What a wanker.

It’s not enough these days just to throw a few car chases together, call it a brainless action flick and hope no one notices how insulting it’s being. A case in point, Jordan and Lincoln find themselves pursued by a small fleet of Laurent’s goons. They are sheltering on the back of lorry hauling a number of rusty train wheels. Lincoln bravely rolls these into the paths of the gunfiring cars, saving their bacon. At apparently no point in the proceedings does the driver look in his rear view mirrors, tootling along at a steady, oblivious pace regardless of what would look to be a sneak preview of World War Three. You might think that losing all of your cargo and coming under automatic weapons fire would warrant pulling over, or at least a reaction shot but the mistake you’ve made there is to think.

For balance, I feel I should point out the positives. Don’t worry, it won’t take long. Steve Buscemi. There, that’s pretty much it. Umm, I suppose it’s nice to hear Ewan’s real accent in a film after years of variable quality Yank / Alec Guinness impersonations, but if the best moment in a film is McGregor calling someone a wanker with a Scottish twang in his voice the film is in severe trouble. One of the producers had the temerity to unfairly blame the actors for this film’s box office bellyflop, Johansson in particular. Odd, given that the script calls only for her character to a) Look pretty and b) See point a. Given that no-one involved has anything more than a perfunctory reading to perform in such an action oriented structure, surely it’d be more sensible to blame Bay and the scriptwriters?

The Island is a colossal turd. I’ve tried, but can’t put it any better than that. Jesus, I’ve not even mentioned the horrendous, blatant product placement (a fact of life these days but there does exist such a thing a subtlety, dear boy), the leaden, empty pace of the first half hour or the fact Sean Bean is in it. It’s a big, glossy, expensive, polished colossal turd for sure, but no amount of adjectives can hide the fact that it’s still a colossal turd.

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