Merriam-Webster Online describes an island as follows :
Etymology: alteration (influenced by Old French isle) of earlier iland, from Middle English, from Old English Igland (akin to Old Norse eyland), from ig island (akin to Old English Ea river, Latin aqua water) + land land
1 : a tract of land surrounded by water and smaller than a continent
Here’s what should be added to the definition
ISLAND, THE : A roller-coaster type movie that kicks your ass for 127 minutes and leaves you craving more.
Now with a start-up like this, you know I’m going to give this puppy a good rating. So here goes…
First we must begin with what this movie was ripped from. Some of my Sci-Fi buddies over at Spacecast say it’s a rip-off of the movie The Clonus Horror (1979). Having not seen this movie and it seems pretty “obscure” at best, I won’t comment on it. But judging from the user comments on IMDB, you can tell that it is in fact a rip-off. But you know what? I don’t care, don’t give a shit. I often bitch about rip-offs but in this case it is forgiven because this puppy rips off something even greater, something written 516 years BCE by some guy no one knows about anymore – some loser philosopher called Plato. The story referred to in his masterpiece, The Republic, is called “The Allegory of the Cave”. This very allegory is what started my path in wanting to know “why?” when I was but a wee little college student, 17 year’s old and on a seemingly neverending party.
So here is the story, the allegory: Have you ever had a dream, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world? Sound familiar? It should, The Matrix‘s premise is the same as this movie. One movie goes on to greatness and forever moulding our pop culture into something else; the other will be remembered as a simple Hollywood summer blockbuster. Because in the end it is what it is. The allegory goes very deep. In The Republic it goes like this… (My redux version)
Imagine you are in a cave, you are chained down and forced to look forward on a wall. On this wall are projected shadows of a nearby bridge and its travelers going about their daily lives. This is all you’ve known all your life, this is your reality. There are no people, only the shadows of people, but you wouldn’t know a real person if you saw one. It would be alien to you. You would probably need to change your shorts if you saw one. What if one day you were freed from that cave and you crawled out of a hole from the top of the cave, the light alone could blind you and your gut reaction would probably resemble Neo’s reaction when he pops the top of his sarcophagus and sees the power plant for the first time. Now essentially this is your moment of enlightenment in more ways than one (considering the harsh light of day). But if we contrast it with Buddhist elements of enlightenment, this is the equivalent of the day Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and achieved enlightenment. And just like Buddha, our cave dweller is now befallen by a great responsibility, to free the others from their caves so that all may attain enlightenment. He must lead them out of the cave.
Now of course this is a Michael Bay movie, so don’t expect to have the spiritual side of the story, but the rest is all there in a cleverly packaged action rock’em sock’em roller-coaster ride. And I mean it’s all there. The shadows, the cave, the escape, the blinding light, crash-coarse in ultimate truth and reality and the eventual liberation of all. (No spoilage there, it’s a Hollywood movie, they are never surprising when it comes to storytelling)
Now on to the meat, the review. Bear with me, it’s not over yet.
First off, the story… if you’ve gotten this far, you get the gist of it, but I’ll clarify it some more though because it’s not happening in 500 BCE. And it involves Eugenics. And the story, considering it’s a Bay movie, is actually palatable and savoury like a good Hawg of ribs from Bar-B-Barn’s.
In the future and if you are among the super rich, you can have clones made for spare parts and basically lengthen your life by about 70 years through this process. Now the clones live in an isolated environment deep underground in this super-structure where their lives are basically a huge gym with evil trainers. You don’t know you are a clone, you believe you are a survivor of a plague ravaged earth and you are being maintained and cared for the eventual repopulation of the earth. All you know and want is to go to The Island to which you can only be chosen by a lottery system. The lucky few get to live topside on an island paradise. And of course it’s all bullshit. And of course our hero who is a bit curious finds out what evil lies in those “dark satanic mills” – to borrow from William Blake. I won’t say more because that would be telling and this review is long enough already and I’m not done yet.
So what about the actors? Well what a killer line up. You have Ob-Ewan McGregor playing Lincoln, our hero with dead-cat tattooed on his ass. You have Sean Bean, once again playing a really nasty dude (seems it’s all he plays – his name is becoming synonymous with the word asshole) the mill’s shrink, the ever impressive Djimon Hounsou as the bounty-hunter Laurent. Steve Buscemi playing the wacky technician who reveals the truth to our hero and heroin… oh yeah the heroine. Scarlett Johansson plays Jordan. WOW! This woman is the hottest, sexiest walking wet-dream I’ve seen on screen in a long, long time and she can actually act, not like a certain bimbo which won’t be mentioned COUGHJessicaAlbaCOUGH. Now Scarlett is an island on to herself. Mountains, valleys, golden beach… mmmmmmmmm, but I digress, my libidinous praising aside, she can act and is completely convincing as a female action hero, not Ripley Female Action Hero, but pretty damn close. And there is also some good small roles filled by Ethan Phillips (Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager) and of course the mammoth-sized Michael Clarke Duncan whose small role is funny and then tragic.
Special Effects? VERY FREAKING GOOD. When Lincoln and Linclone are side by side, you cannot tell, you cannot see the special effects. The cityscapes are absolutely fantastic, the cave is impressive and then there’s the… well I’ll get to that yummy part later.
Any respectable Michael Bay movie has to have a huge over-the-top adrenaline releasing heart-stopping car chase. If you thought the car chase from Bad Boys II was insane… buckle-up Rupert, because Mikey just went PRO. This car chase is the over-the-top car chase to end all over-the-top car chases. It’s at least 5 times better than Bad Boys II‘s car chase and then… then it really goes over the edge because there are speeder-bikes. Yes speeder-bikes, like Return of the Jedi speeder bikes, but BETTER. And then it goes over-the-top even more, even to much, but considering this is a summer roller-coaster movie and everything is just superbly well done, I’m more forgiving. Most prototype cars and trucks in this movie are relics because of the time line but what an abundant source of really cool looking vehicles.
The score is a relentless assault of industrial music (meaning NIN and Manson inspired with a dash of David Bowie) and also a lot of well placed classical music when the action takes a break (there’s only 2 breaks in the movie, so don’t bring a big gulp in there) which makes for a thunderous score that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Now here’s the best part, at least for my inner-photographer. The lighting, sunlight and shadows are PERFECTLY exploited here. It makes Ridley Scott look like a rank amateur and that’s saying a lot. The colors are so lush and textured. Every shot, every angle, every display is a work of art and good art. From the dream sequence that starts the movie, to the ending it is PERFECT. It’s like touching boobs for the first time, you just don’t want it to end and when it does you can finally start to breath again.
Now there are some clichés, like in the final boss fight, the shrink utters what I just knew he would, the I put you into this world and I can take you out. Some pop-culture references that were just rip-offs. But in the flood of action, that gets over the top, you barely notice it. But I did notice all the FREAKING product placements that were so blatant in your face Hi!-this-is-overkill-publicity, that it pissed me off at certain points. At one point, with the beer, you feel like they slipped in a TV commercial and you are none the wiser…but we are, Hollywood, we are.
There’s more but that would take to long and would just say top much about this great summer movie. Go see it now….
5 attuo 4 A