Futuristic Movie Month: "The Island" Review

Photo Credit: DreamWorks Distribution

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Rating: PG-13
Length: 136 minutes
Release Date: July 22, 2005
Directed by: Michael Bay
Genre: Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

"The Island" was director Michael Bay's first science-fiction movie after 1998's "Armageddon," which was the first major motion picture he ever produced. In the seven years following "Armageddon," Michael Bay directed "Pearl Harbor," "The Amityville Horror" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." The 2005 release of "The Island" marked his return to his roots as a science-fiction director – a role he has stayed true to ever since with blockbuster hits like the "Transformers" series and "I Am Number Four."

The beginning of "The Island" is a surreal one, even for a hardcore science-fiction film. The opening montage shows vivid scenes from the dreams of a man named Lincoln Six Echo. As the dream sequence progresses, the voice of an unidentified man begins speaking. The man in the dream tells Lincoln Six Echo that he has a special purpose in life and has been chosen, though he doesn't specify what exactly Lincoln has been chosen for. He goes on to say that the Island is waiting, but Lincoln wakes suddenly from his dream before he can hear another word.

The year is only 2019, which creates a surprising twist for a movie with an advanced, futuristic science-fiction storyline. Although "The Island" take place just 14 years after its real-life release date, it's immediately clear that the planet is no longer ours. A sophisticated LED display on the ceiling above Lincoln's bed announces robotically that Lincoln's sleep cycle has been erratic. When Lincoln uses his restroom, the toilet announces there's an excess of sodium in his urine and gives him nutritional advice. Lincoln's home is really more of a compound, and in spite of being treated quite well, nearly every aspect of his life is tightly controlled. He wears a bracelet that he must scan to open his dresser, and the only clothes in his drawers are white socks and tracksuits. He gets dressed unceremoniously and leaves his room as the other citizens in the compound leave theirs. Almost everyone is dressed in identical uniforms. Nothing seems unique about anybody.

However, it's a utopia of sorts. There is nothing to worry about at the facility. Everyone seems happy or at least content. Just like everyone else, Lincoln hopes to be chosen to go to an island that is said to be the last uncontaminated place on the entire planet. Residents of the island are said to live normal lives, not controlled like they are at the facility. In order to be chosen for island life, a resident has to be lucky enough to win the lottery. Lincoln is soon the lucky winner, but little does he know that everything he has ever been told is a lie.

"The Island" delivers on eerie thrills like few movies have done before. Its subject matter may not be entirely new for the science-fiction genre, but it's delivered in a fresh and exciting way. Terrifying plot twists and action scenes carry "The Island" along at a steady pace. The cast is full of talented actors like Ewan McGregor, who portrays Lincoln Six Echo, and Scarlett Johansson, a beautiful resident named Jordan Two Delta who escapes with Lincoln. Even though "The Island" is one of Scarlett Johansson's first action movies, her portrayal of Jordon is spot on. Jordan is no damsel in distress, and she rescues Lincoln on multiple occasions, providing a refreshing break from the helpless leading ladies often found in action movies. Jordan and Lincoln are truly a team as they embark on their seemingly impossible quest, and their on-screen chemistry is excellent thanks to the years of acting experience behind Johansson and McGregor.

The supporting actors are just as strong. Steve Buscemi is James McCord, a maintenance supervisor who is one of Lincoln's only friends. The two major antagonists are portrayed by Djimon Hounsou and Sean Bean. Even though there are many other enemies hunting Lincoln and Jordan, the characters Djimon Hounsou and Sean Bean portray are by far the most sinister. "The Island" may be a classic story of good fighting against evil, but the cast makes it fresh and exciting. Even the characters that are sworn enemies have excellent chemistry due to the talents of the actors and screenwriters.

Thanks to its fantastic acting and an unsettling story, it's no surprise that "The Island" was nominated for multiple awards. In addition to nominations for its sound editing and make-up effects, "The Island" received a Teen Choice Awards nomination for choice summer movie and a Saturn Award nomination for 2005's best science-fiction film.