a critiQal film review The Island (2005)

Plot: Lincoln Six Echo (McGregor) lives underground and his every move is regulated. The reason he puts up with it? The Earth has been contaminated, and he is one of the survivors...or so he believes. But, when he discovers the whole of his existence is a lie, he escapes, with friend Jordan Two Delta (Johansson) in tow. They venture into the surface world, and discover the truth about why they've been lied to...and how much of their past is real.

Reviewed
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  • ...a breath-taking thrill ride - albeit with a rather long waiting line.

When I hear that Michael Bay directed a film, I know it’s going to be intense, over-the-top action. Teaming up with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the two of them brought us the blockbuster action flicks Bad Boys (1995), it’s sequel Bad Boys II (2003) and The Rock (1996), among others.

Now that they’ve split, they both are doing pretty much the same thing, with Jerry Bruckheimer producing Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), and Michael Bay directing The Island.

As soon as I heard that Michael Bay was behind the helm of the new action flick The Island, I knew I was going to have to check it out. The previews got me pumped just a little bit more about the film, and I eagerly anticipated it’s arrival on DVD. But, does Michael Bay still have what it takes to do big-budget action flicks, or are his best films already behind him?

Ewan McGregor, hot off his starring role in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005), seems almost excited to get back to normal, non-Jedi induced movie making. He steps into his character easily, combining a bit of the craziness of his youth in Trainspotting (1996) with a bit of his Moulin Rouge! (2001) love-struck personality. He does his eager best to sweep viewers along for ride of The Island, while his co-star Scarlett Johansson is a bit less enthused.

She plays her part with a lot more reserve than Ewan, able to pull him down when his excitement threatens to lift him off the ground. The two make a good pair, in a mostly non-platonic way, making their roles in this film perfect for one another – at least through the first two-thirds of the film. This pairing does a lot to help keep the viewer’s interest through the long setup of the film, so when The Island finally decides to get action-packed, there are still many viewers sticking around.

The long setup does detract a lot from The Island, however. With Michael Bay at the helm, viewers are expecting non-stop action, so when the movie drags through a very long sequence of non-action, the viewers will complain. That’s not too say the long non-action sequence doesn’t help the movie – it does, but it will go on too long for most viewers. A shorter piece could have done the same job in less time, leaving more time for the action. Thankfully, when the action does finally pick up, Michael Bay does his best to cram as much in as possible in the time he’s got left.

While the action does seem a bit rushed, the scope of the action in The Island is as big or bigger than anything Bay’s tried previously. Bay’s penchant for freeway chases doesn’t skip The Island, so be prepared for a crazy sequence involving a Mack truck and train wheels. Follow that up with an insane flying mini-jet chase and a precarious drop-off involving a building logo, and the viewer will be panting to keep up. Thanks to the impressive team behind Mr. Bay, each stunning sequence comes off flawlessly through a mixture of great computer effects and live-action stunts. Bay’s action always leaves a memorable impression of amazement on the viewer, and The Island’s action sequences are no exception.

While trying to take on a morally complicated issue isn’t exactly the formula for big-budget action pictures’ success, Michael Bay turns The Island into a breath-taking thrill ride – albeit with a rather long waiting line. But, like any good ride, if you can suffer through the line, it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Notch another one in your belt, Michael – your action sequences just keep taking our breath away. But try to space ’em out over the whole movie next time, ok?

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