Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Island (2005)

The Island is a 2005 American science fiction/thriller film directed by Michael Bay and starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. It was released on July 22, 2005 in the United States, and was nominated for three awards including the Teen Choice Award.

It is described as a pastiche of "escape-from-dystopia" science fiction films of the 1960s and 1970s such as Fahrenheit 451, THX 1138, Parts: The Clonus Horror, and Logan's Run. The film's plot revolves around the struggle of Ewan McGregor's character to fit into the highly structured world he lives in, and the series of events that unfolds when he questions how truthful that world really is.

The film, which cost $126 million to produce, earned only $36 million at the United States box office, but earned $127 million overseas, for a $162 million worldwide total. The original score for the film was composed by Steve Jablonsky.

The Plot

Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) lives in an isolated compound which strictly regulates its inhabitants' lives. The inhabitants hope to win a lottery, the reward of which is a relocation to "The Island", the only place on Earth not contaminated by a deadly pathogen. Lincoln tells Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean) of his discontent with the plain white clothes everyone is given and the strict social controls. Concerned about strange dreams Lincoln experiences that involve a speedboat and other unfamiliar items, Merrick inserts probes into Lincoln's body to monitor his cerebral activities.

While illicitly visiting a power-plant basement where his friend, the technician James McCord (Steve Buscemi), works, Lincoln discovers a live moth in a ventilation shaft, leading him to deduce that the outside world is not contaminated. Lincoln captures and releases the moth and follows it to another section, where he witnesses two recent lottery winners being killed: one immediately after childbirth (for her baby), and the other (Michael Clarke Duncan) in the process of having his liver harvested. Security discovers that Lincoln has wandered into unauthorized areas, and start searching for him. As Lincoln rescues Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), a friend who has just won the lottery, Dr. Merrick realizes that Lincoln is beginning to learn the truth.

While eluding security and escaping from the facility, Lincoln and Jordan learn that both the contamination of the outside world and the Island are myths, and that the residents are clones of wealthy sponsors, who intend to use them for organ harvesting or surrogate motherhood. Merrick's technology allows clones to incubate directly into adulthood. He tells sponsors and the government that the clones do not gain consciousness, but when Merrick hires French mercenary Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou) to kill or capture the escapees, he admits that the organs of unconscious clones inevitably fail, making them useless. Thus, he needs the clones conscious in the compound.

Lincoln and Jordan escape the compound and find themselves in the Arizona desert. They find McCord, who gives them the name of Lincoln's sponsor in Los Angeles, and helps them to the Yucca railway station. After Laurent's mercenaries find and kill McCord, Lincoln and Jordan ride the train in hopes of finding help in Los Angeles. (Jordan Two's sponsor, model Sarah Jordan, cannot help as she is in a coma following a car accident.) Lincoln Six's sponsor, Tom Lincoln—the owner of the speedboat in Lincoln's dreams—agrees to help expose the truth about the organ harvesting, but secretly turns against his clone by informing Merrick about the situation. Merrick sends the mercenaries to the location, but Lincoln Six tricks Laurent into killing Tom, allowing him to assume Tom's identity.

The cerebral probes reveal that Lincoln Six Echo inherited some memories from his sponsor Tom Lincoln (which had been thought impossible). Merrick becomes afraid that the same will happen with the other clones and decides to kill them all. Lincoln and Jordan plan to liberate their fellow clones. Now posing as Tom Lincoln, Lincoln Six returns to the compound in order to destroy the holographic projectors that hide the outside world from the clones. With help from Laurent—who has moral qualms with treating the clones as if they are not human—and Merrick is killed and the clones are freed. The film ends with the clones seeing the outside world for the first time.


The Island received mixed reviews from critics. It has a 40% "Rotten" rating (based on 185 reviews) at Rotten Tomatoes, and scored 50/100 (based on 38 reviews) at Metacritic. Critical consensus was that the film was well acted and had impressive special effects but didn't deal with the ethical issues it raised as well as it could have. Many reviewers noted that the The Island seemed like two separate films.

Roger Ebert said, "the first half is a spare, creepy science fiction parable, and then it shifts into a high-tech action picture. Both halves work. Whether they work together is a good question." He gave the film three out of four stars and praised the performances of the actors, in particular Michael Clarke Duncan: "He has only three or four scenes, but they're of central importance, and he brings true horror to them." On the critical side, he says the film "never satisfactorily comes full circle" and missed the opportunity "to do what the best science fiction does, and use the future as a way to critique the present."

Variety's Justin Change called the film an "exercise in sensory overkill" and said that Bay took on "the weighty moral conundrums of human cloning, resolving them in a storm of bullets, car chases and more explosions than you can shake a syringe at." He noted McGregor and Buscemi as highlights of the film, along with Nigel Phelps' production design. However, he felt the story lacked in surprises and blamed "attention-deficit editing by Paul Rubell and Christian Wagner" for actions sequences that he felt lacked tension and were "joltingly repetitive".

Salon's Stephanie Zacharek also praised the actors but felt that when the film "gets really interesting, Bay thinks he needs to throw in a car crash or a round of gunfire to keep our attention." She felt the film had enough surprises "to make you wish it were better." Similarly, The New York Times reviewer, A.O. Scott, said "the film is smarter than you might expect, and at the same time dumber than it could be."

Reviewers objected to the prominent use of product placement for several brands in the film. In an Entertainment Weekly cover story, Bay stated that the extensive product placement was the result of trying to offset production costs - "Bay called on friends at major corporations .. and offered product placement in exchange for cash. 'We made about $850,000 on that,' he says. 'And we needed that money to get this movie made.'" Bay began his directorial career in commercials and music videos, which is why these relationships were already in place.

The Cast

Ewan McGregor as Lincoln Six Echo / Tom Lincoln
 Scarlett Johansson as Jordan Two Delta / Sarah Jordan
 Djimon Hounsou as Albert Laurent
 Sean Bean as Dr. Bernard Merrick
 Steve Buscemi as James McCord
 Michael Clarke Duncan as Starkweather Two Delta / Jamal Starkweather
 Ethan Phillips as Jones Three Echo
 Brian Stepanek as Gandu Three Echo
 Noa Tishby as Community Announcer
 Siobhan Flynn as Lima One Alpha
Phil Abrams as Obgyn

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