Director Michael Bay is notorious for making movies with lots of high intensity action and tons of special effects. Not all of his movies are good; in fact some are just flat out stupid. Even when the movie is ridiculous and hard to take seriously, it cannot be said that the action isn't awesome. Somehow I missed the release of The Island (2005). I've had several people recommend it to me in the past few weeks, so I made sure to see it. It's pretty interesting for a Michael Bay movie.
Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) is a resident of a seemingly Utopian, but contained, facility in the year 2019. Like all of the inhabitants of this carefully controlled environment, Lincoln hopes to be chosen to go to "The Island," reportedly the last uncontaminated spot on the planet. But Lincoln soon discovers that everything is not what it appears to be. He makes a daring escape with a beautiful fellow resident named Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson). The two are relentlessly pursued by the facility's administrator, Dr. Bernard Merrick (Sean Bean), and his hired mercenaries. Lincoln and Jordan race to find help and protection in a world they know nothing about.
Surely you've seen a Michael Bay movie before. Transformers, Armageddon, and Pearl Harbor probably come to mind. If you've seen these movies then you already know they are special effects intensive, feature lots of action, and an uncommonly high number of explosions. That's basically the main reasons to watch a Michael Bay movie. The man is a genius when it comes to orchestrating beautiful pyrotechnic stunts.
In The Island, however, it's almost like he's done a double feature of some sort. The first part of the movie is similar to the "escape from paradise" movies that were popular in the 1960's and 70's, like Logan's Run or Fahrenheit 451. It acts as a creepy, yet relatively calm, science fiction parable, which later shifts into a high-tech adrenaline-pumping action movie. The second half is more like a Michael Bay movie. Both "halves" of the movie are great fun individually, but they contrast each other so much in terms of pacing, theme, and tone that I'm not sure if they work well together. It's almost like watching a double feature with the same cast.
The Utopian facility at the beginning of the movie is not terribly complicated to figure out. The inhabitants are childlike and blissful, all except for the few troublesome characters like Lincoln who wants bacon for breakfast but is given oatmeal. This causes him develop something that all closed systems fear, curiosity. McGregor and Johansson do a phenomenal job of playing characters raised to be docile, obedient, and frankly not very bright. It's great to see how Bay gradually thrusts upon them carefully controlled amounts of knowledge which both moves the plot forward and shows the characters losing their illusions.
The second part of the movie is an insane series of chase scenes by train, car, and hover-cycle, that showcase some stellar special effects with absurd urgency. How our heroes discover the underlying truth about their world while moving so fast is beyond me. Maybe people in the facility aren't as slow witted as we thought. Car chases on highways are difficult to film, but Michael Bay has a knack for filming great chase scenes. There are a good number of crashes, explosions, and cliffhangers which by every right should have killed everyone involved. Yet our heroes escape and keep going. How? I have no idea. But it was really fun and exciting to watch!
I didn't feel like The Island draws much of a conclusive ending. The climax of the film certainly fulfills the requirements of the second half of the story, but it leaves questions raised in the first half unanswered. We get a satisfactory ending to all the action, but it's as if the movie completely forgot about the first half. That's part of the reason why I think each half of the movie is good, but they don't quite work well together.
The Island is a fun movie. It's got lots of crazy action, some good acting, reasonably decent writing, good directing, and a story that is as illogical and full of plot holes as any other Michael Bay movie. If you're looking for something deep and intellectually stimulating, you shouldn't bother with a Michael Bay movie. The Island was fun and exciting. That's all it is, and that's what Michael Bay is good at. Like any good sci-fi movie, The Island should cause you to reflect on contemporary issues. If you don't think of something like stem-cell research or government monitoring, you might be missing one of the few intellectually stimulating bits of The Island. I recommend seeing this movie; it's not a classic for the ages, but it's achieves what it sets out to do. I think it might even be worth owning a copy for the next time you're in the mood for a crazy action movie.
What's your favorite "escape from paradise" movie? I kind of liked Logan's Run. Comment below and tell me about yours!