Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson in The Island (2005)


(director: Michael Bay; screenwriters: from the story by Caspian Tredwell-Owen/Roberto Orci/Alex Kurtzman; cinematographer: Mauro Fiore; editors: Roger Barton/Paul Rubell/Christian Wagner; music: Steve Jablonsky; cast: Ewan McGregor (Lincoln Six Echo/Tom Lincoln), Scarlett Johansson (Jordan Two Delta/Sarah Jordan), Djimon Honusou (Albert Laurent), Sean Bean (Dr. Merrick), Steve Buscemi (McCord), Michael Clarke Duncan (Starkweather), Ethan Phillips (Jones Three Echo), Max Baker (Carnes), Brian Stepanek (Gandu Three Alpha); Runtime: 138; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Michael Bay/Ian Bryce/Laurie MacDonald/Walter F. Parkes; Dreamworks; 2005)

“Mindless, soulless, overlong, sleek looking popcorn action thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Michael Bay (“Armageddon”/”Pearl Harbor”) has never made a film that wasn’t dumb and keeps that record going with The Island (which could be a title borrowed from a reality-TV show). It’s a wannabe sci-fi film pondering the merits of cloning that is turned into a plot-heavy, mindless, soulless, overlong, sleek looking popcorn action thriller that takes it so far off-course there’s nothing thoughtful to digest. It’s clumsily filmed as if it were a magazine spread for a Calvin Klein perfume commercial, and resonates with as deep a message as that stale ad. In fact, I thought at one point the film was all commercial as it’s loaded down with product placements for the likes of Ben & Jerry’s, Puma sneakers, Cadillac and Aquafina bottled water. It’s based on the story by Caspian Tredwell-Owen and is written by Alex Kurtzman.

This futuristic flick is set in the post-apocalyptic year 2019, somewhere out in the Arizona desert, in an isolated self-contained ultramodern utopian-like inside community that looks as if it were a Pierre Cardin hair salon. Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) is a clone like all the other thousand or so residents, but none of the guests knows that. Instead they are led to believe they are survivors of an environmental catastrophe and are being restored to health by Dr Merrick (Sean Bean) and his staff. In truth Merrick is an evil tycoon (a poster boy for corporate greed) with a God complex who is running this experimental lab with the aid of 120 billion dollars from the government, who is further sponsored by rich clients who want to live extra-long lives and the greedy scientist businessman amorally creates for them clones (which costs them lots of gelt) so that their damaged body parts could be repaired. The clones have new memories programed and are kept ignorant of the outside world, as they are told it’s a place off-limits because it’s still contaminated by radiation. A lottery is run and the lucky winner, with the promise being that everyone will some day be a winner, is going to a paradise island retreat–the only place on Earth on the outside that is not contaminated. In the film’s reality, the winning clones never go to an island but are duped into being operated on for their body parts.

While in confinement in the colony, the white uniformed clones are monitored for their REM sleep motions, their body metabolism and all their daily movements, as they are discouraged in becoming too close with the other residents or know about such things as sex and politics (a blockbuster obligatory kind of Bush administration joke is hinted at, as is the practice in the recent wave of such films). Surveillance cameras are placed everywhere to make sure they conform to the rules. Also, they must participate in group exercises and basic elementary reading classes.

Lincoln Six Echo hits it off big time with snappy looking chick Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson); her sponsor being a model, while his is a wealthy boat designer. Lincoln Six Echo (Mr. McGregor) starts questioning things that range from why can’t he get bacon with his breakfast to what about a fly he discovers is alive (meaning the outside can’t be contaminated), and he asks one of the shop supervisors, McCord (Steve Buscemi), the only one in the joint who has a heart, for his help when he realizes that he’s living a lie and must flee with Jordan Two Delta before the evil doers take her life. The remainder of the film is about trying to escape from the clutches of Merrick, who sends a military-like security force headed by Albert Laurent (Djimon Honusou) to stop the escaped “products” from bringing down his capitalist venture empire. This part of the film jettisons dialogue and thought for outrageous action sequences one comes to expect nowadays in such empty high-tech thrillers. Bay regales the viewer with his typical big and loud set pieces, including an exciting centerpiece freeway chase involving giant metal train wheels rolled down by our hero from the back of an eighteen-wheeler to stop those nasty bounty hunters in pursuit.