Volume 24, Number 2, Winter, 2006

Clones on the run

The Island

Directed by Michael Bay

Starring Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson
Warner Brothers, 2005
Reviewed by David Wayland

I rented this movie with low expectations. When released on the big screen I pencilled it in as a movie worth watching, but hesitated upon reading the unkind reviews. Film-goers like myself who failed to see the movie the first time should give it a second chance. The Island, for all the burdens imposed upon it by the director, satisfied me on most levels.

Michael Bay, lampooned so deservedly in the puppet-comedy, Team America for his lush action sequences set to rock music, seems for the most part quite restrained in this movie. There’s one jaw-dropping car-chase scene that extends to hanging from a building while shots are fired, and of course the requisite mano-a-mano showdown at the end, but otherwise The Island focuses more on its two main stars and the premise that drives them.

Ewan McGregor shines as Lincoln Six Echo, a bright and inquisitive young man, living in what seems to be the last refuge of mankind after a global contamination. Sealed inside a tower-like building, life appears quite regulated. Lincoln is friends with Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson sleepwalking through most of the movie), yet prevented by rules of “proximity” enforced by guards in black from close contact. Newcomers are recovered from the contaminated zone on a regular basis, and the carrot of a lottery ticket to “the island,” a paradise on the outside world, keeps hope alive among the citizens.

When Lincoln discovers a butterfly in a supposedly quarantined part of the building, he follows this out through a ventilation shaft and through what appears to be the floor of a hospital. Here he discovers quickly that everything he has been told is a lie, that he and the other “survivors” are being killed for body-parts, pregnant citizens are killed after their babies are harvested, and the guards are ruthless when it comes to keeping this secret. Grabbing Jordan during his escape, Lincoln makes it to the outside world, where he discovers they are clones of real people, used as an insurance policy, and considered nothing more than products. Determined to find their sponsors and expose this program to the world, Lincoln and Jordan become hunted fugitives. Little do they know that even their sponsors care not for them as human beings.

The Island works both as a popcorn movie, with excellent set, great eye-candy, and strong action sequences. At the same time, it’s a thoughtful movie, showing that humans can justify and rationalize exploitation of other humans. The guards and workers at the clone complex are just as guilty in individual rights violations as the Nazi guards working in concentration camps. As a movie that entertains as well as questions authority, The Island certainly is worth more attention than it received. A fun ride.

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