Main cast: Ewan McGregor (Lincoln Six Echo/Tom Lincoln), Scarlett Johansson (Jordan Two Delta/Sarah Jordan), Djimon Hounsou (Albert Laurent), Steve Buscemi (McCord), Michael Clarke Duncan (Starkweather), Ethan Phillips (Jones Three Echo), Brian Stepanek (Gandu Three Alpha), Kim Coates (Charles Whitman), and Sean Bean (Dr Merrick)
Director: Michael Bay
The Island is a movie that is an amalgamation of all the science-fiction “we hate cloning, pollution, and nuclear power” action-dramas that have been cranked out of Hollywood since it first discovers Phillip K Dick. Since this is a Michael Bay movie, fancy chases and big explosions eventually take precedence over drama, although it’s clear that this movie is a dumbed-down version of the far more introspective script that the original scriptwriter, Caspian “Doesn’t My Name Sound Like One Belonging to a Member of a Futuristic Space Colony?” Tredwell-Owen, came up with before he sold the rights of this movie for a million dollars to Dreamworks. After several script doctors have made changes to up the pyrotechnics and tone down any drama that could have scared the dumb jocks away from the cinemas, this movie is the product.
As someone who is actually tired of the “Cloning sucks! Save the earth! Love the animals!” messages all these science-fiction movies keep shoving down my throat, I find myself enjoying The Island tremendously. This is probably aided by strong performances by Ewan McGregor who steals the show in both his roles.
Set in 2017, our hero Lincoln Six Echo lives with thousands of other survivors that have seeked refuge in what seems like a futuristic underground colony from the outside world which has been struck by some nuclear catastrophe. Day by day they live in a strictly regimented routine where even their bathroom activities are monitored, exercising and keeping fit, living for the day when they would be chosen through a lottery system to move to The Island, a tropical paradise said to be the only unpolluted place on Earth at that time. But Lincoln is starting to feel bothered by his regimented lifestyle. He starts wondering why he has to wear white all the time. The better for me to ogle at him? Probably not, I suppose. He wants more… although what he wants he isn’t sure yet.
The truth slowly unravels when our curious hero starts exploring the place and even sneaking into areas that are out of bounds. He soon starts to learn a little of the truth: there is no Island. People chosen to go to the Island are actually taken to the medical facilities upstairs where they are killed after they are of no use to the people running the colony. The truth is: Lincoln and the others living in this colony are clones of actual people living in the outside world. People pay millions of dollars to have clones made of themselves to provide organs when theirs are failing or to even carry babies so that they can have a child of their own without enduring weight gain and Cesarean scars. What the cloning enterprise boss Dr Merrick doesn’t tell his customers is that his clones aren’t vegetative like he told them, these clones are up and alive like Lincoln and his buddies. Dr Merrick has deliberately removed more troublesome drives like libido, curiosity, and aggression from his clones to keep them docile and malleable. But as Lincoln is proving to be the case, Dr Merrick has missed out a few important variables in his work and some of his clones are starting to be more human than he would like them to be.
When Lincoln’s good friend Jordan Two Delta is selected to go to the island (Jordan’s “sponsor” needs her organs in a crucial surgery), Lincoln throws caution to the wind and grabs Jordan as they break out of the colony and rush into the outside world, hoping to find their sponsors and expose Dr Merrick so that they and their cloned buddies could be saved from their eventual fates. Dr Merrick hires the merceneries led by Albert Laurent to recapture them. The chase is on. The trouble here is, Jordan and Lincoln are totally unaware of how the outside world works: they have the worldliness of very sheltered fifteen-year olds.
Thanks to the two lead players who can actually act, Lincoln and Jordan are bittersweet to follow as they learn more and more about the outside world, from lying to making love to even acting violently on other people. But Mr McGregor is having the time of his life, reminding the audience not to take the story too seriously as he grins and jumps around like a giddy boy in his first carnival. The real Tom Lincoln is a womanizing but likeable jerk with a sexy Scottish accent while Lincoln is the naive innocent one, and Mr McGregor takes to both roles with relish. Scarlett Johansson doesn’t have much to do here in her first big-time blockbuster role other than to look beautiful and sprout corny lines about looking into Lincoln’s eyes to see that he’s lying (or not), though. The others play roles that are mostly watered-down version of the roles they are often typecast as: Steve Buscemi as the goofish cynical loser with a heart of gold, Michael Clarke Duncan as the Big Black Symbol of Pain and Suffering, Djimon Hounsou as the Silent Black Antagonist with a Heart of Gold, and Sean Bean as the Surly Mean Man.
Despite plot holes galore (for starters, it is too easy for Jordan and Lincoln to break out of the colony) and the unimaginative anvils representing everything from the Holocaust to the Important Meaning of Wearing White Jumpsuits, The Island manages to come together as a very satisfying insanely-paced action movie. It doesn’t try too hard to be multilayered – in short, Mr Bay isn’t too keen on even start trying to be the new Steven Spielberg – and it doesn’t pretend to be anything but a big-budgeted action movie where big chases and huge explosions are more important than any heavy-handed messages the script is trying to shove down my throat. The icing on the cake is the main characters displaying enough humanity to engage my emotions and make me care for them.
Sure, there are better science-fiction movies with messages out there, but sometimes, a movie entertains me immensely and that is enough for me.