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Intriguing "Island" Resorts to Violence, Mayhem

  • Christian Hamaker
  • 2005 7 Jul
  • COMMENTS
Intriguing "Island" Resorts to Violence, Mayhem

Release Date: July 22, 2005
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexuality and language)
Genre: Action/Drama/Sci Fi/Thriller
Run Time: 127 minutes
Director: Michael Bay
Actors: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan

"The Island," the new film from director Michael Bay ("The Rock", "Armageddon"), begins with great promise but eventually devolves in to a standard chase film, punctuated by the filmmaker’s trademark excesses.

Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson star as Lincoln Six-Echo and Jordan Two-Delta, referred to as “products” by the men who run the futuristic closed facility in which Lincoln, Jordan, and numerous others spend their days, longing to be selected to go to “the island.” Control is the order of the day: Food choices are limited, human waste is analyzed, contact with the opposite sex is discouraged, and pointed questions are frowned upon.

Still, these beings are constantly told of their “special purpose in life,” as one character puts it. Humanity has experienced the “Great Contamination,” with the survivors gathered to await their selection to the island – “a Garden of Eden” free from pathogens. The characters need only wait to “win the lottery” and be called to the island.

But when a frustrated Lincoln Six-Echo breaks out of his closed environment, he discovers a grisly fate for his fellow “products,” and the hard truth behind his very existence. His purpose in life, and the purpose of all “products,” is not to repopulate the earth, but to serve the wants and needs of frail human beings “contaminated” by their own lust for life.

“The Island” explores life-and-death issues in a 21st century context, where youth and vigor are valued above all, and where new life can be created outside the womb. Such issues open the film to religious interpretations, but on that score, “The Island” presents a cruel creator who offers false hope to his creatures. The Eden these creatures long for exists only in their minds, where it has been imprinted from their earliest days. The “products” are not chosen for salvation but for their own destruction, used by immoral clients who long for their own fountain of youth. (Scenes depicting this harsh reality are among the film’s most disturbing.) These clients, or customers, are themselves lied to by the doctors who seek to assuage their clients’ guilt – weaving a web of deceit for Lincoln to discover and expose.

A provocative, timely scenario that raises important questions about human identity and bio-ethics is offered by "The Island," but it stops short of exploring the full implications of the moral problems raised. Instead, the filmmakers resort to extremely kinetic camerawork in the service of obscenely destructive (and expensive) car chases and an accelerating body count, laced with scenes of mayhem and violence.

Questions raised in the first 45 minutes of the film are answered soon thereafter, replaced by a few vicarious thrills that are the bread and butter of summer action movies: a spectacular highway car chase that moves from the road surface to the air above the roadway; absurd near-death escapes; and a gratuitous sex scene that adds nothing but titillation for audience members who have, to that point, endured a sex-free summer movie starring two very attractive actors.

The shift to these by-the-numbers action-film clichés pushes into the background the film’s earlier questions about the purpose and meaning of life, providing a too-tidy resolution that leaves viewers superficially sated. While “The Island” deserves credit for addressing the downside of our culture’s obsession with “quality of life” at all costs, its insistence on raising the bar for sheer summer-movie spectacle ultimately wins out, and disappoints.

AUDIENCE:  Teens and adults

OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT: 

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  A bar scene features characters drinking and a woman dancing.
  • Language/Profanity:  Crude reference to a bowel movement; a character’s childhood is described as “s--tty”; a character exclaims, “Jesus must love you!”; a character refers to a “parting gift from God for all my philandering”; God is described as “the Guy who ignores you.”
  • Sex/Nudity:  Pictures of scantily clad women; two characters have sex in the final moments of the film.
  • Violence:  A violent kidnapping is depicted in a dream sequence; a “synoptic brain scan” uses spider-like devices that enter through a character’s eyeball; bloody severing of an umbilical cord; a kickboxing match; a character suffers lethal injection through an IV, and another through an injection directly into his neck; a bone saw cuts into a man’s chest; an escaping “product” is restrained by ropes; a rattlesnake coils and strikes; a man is shot at point-blank range; loads of car wrecks, gunfire, and a near decapitation; several more scenes of vicious, savage death.