Under the old adage that ‘everyone has a twin somewhere in the world,’ director Michael Bay’s The Island (2005) is atypical sci-fi action/melodrama ripped from the pages of embryonic stem cell research gone horrible awry. In this pseudo-Hitlarian futurist utopia, rich people have given the power and the right to clone copies of themselves expressly for the use as ‘spare parts’ to an oligarchic scientist, Merrick (Sean Bean).
Unbeknownst to the clones, they are being bred for ‘harvesting’ at some future stage in their developmental research. The remoteness of the institute – buried deep beneath the red earth of New Mexico - is enough to convince the clones that they are living in a virtual and all inclusive paradise removed from the rest of the world which has been contaminated in nuclear fallout.
Ewan McGregor stars as Lincoln ‘Six’ Echo, the clone of Tom Lincoln (also played by McGregor). ‘Six’ is in love with another clone, Jordan ‘Two’ Delta (Scarlett Johansson). However, when Jordon wins the institute’s ‘lottery’ – that is to say, she is being recalled by her human counterpart Sarah Jordon for harvesting – Lincoln becomes suspicious. After all, none of the previous ‘winners’ ever returned from the island to tell their tale.
Lincoln employs the help of another resident, McCord (Steve Buscemi) to investigate the mystery behind the island. Learning the truth, Lincoln is tagged for immediate extermination by Merrick. But he escapes with Jordon into the shocking ‘reality’ of life circa 2019 – not all that more progressive than life circa 2007, but ultimately just as unsettling.
Falling somewhere between The Matrix and Minority Report, the rest of Bay’s excursion quickly degenerates into his predictable and formulaic ‘us versus them’ chase scenario (seen in The Rock, Con Air, et al). Lincoln and Jordon are stalked at every turn by unrelenting Albert Laurent (Djimon Houdsou) and his not so merry band of hit men. Throughout, the film’s visuals are highly stylized and blessed by digital manipulations that are clever, quirky and perhaps more than a hint telling into the future of our own society.
Bay’s forte, as he’s clearly proven in countless filmic outings of yore, is action. The Island has some of the most breathtaking high stakes adventure sequences ever filmed, and yet, there is an overriding sense of ennui – a very obvious realization for the viewer that what we are seeing has already been done before.
Ewan McGregor is an amiable hero for this un-heroic age; penchulantly suave and deviously threatening. Scarlett Johansson does her best to appear shell-shocked and demure while scaling tall buildings a la Laura Croft Tomb Raider-style and firing rounds of metal nails into potential attackers. Once more, Sean Bean’s baddie is the most appealing of the lot – a very palpable personification of a man with no soul. Buscemi sleepwalks through his part.
In the final analysis, The Island isn’t ‘bad’ entertainment – it’s just not as terribly original as one might expect.
In keeping with the original stylized color palette of the theatrical presentation, Dreamworks DVD delivers a solid anamorphic transfer with eye popping colors. Flesh tones are either saturated orange or cool blue. Fine detail is evident throughout. Occasionally, digital artifacts are obvious, but overall, this is a transfer that will surely not disappoint. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital and aggressive, delivering a deep sonic bass and kick to all speakers. Extras include a brief and superficial ‘making of’ featurette and an audio commentary from Bay that rather meanders and contains some long pauses throughout.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)