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The Possibilities Are Endless
The Island  (DVD)
Member Name: plipplop
The Island  (DVD)
Advantages: Exciting, good action, good leads
Disadvantages: Slightly too long, not very "deep"
But for Lincoln Six Echo it just isn’t enough and he is greatly troubled by everything around him. Haunted by bizarre, repetitive nightmares, Lincoln seeks meaning where there is none, drawing only a little solace from another colonist Jordan 2 Delta and a secret friend McCord who works in another part of the building. On his way back from meeting McCord one afternoon, he is astounded to see a flying insect and he quickly secures the moth in an empty box of matches. Waking early the following morning, he is puzzled by the moth’s very existence and cannot understand how the little creature got into the colony if everything outside is so badly contaminated. Overtaken by curiosity, he returns to the spot where he found the flying insect and follows a trail up and out of the colony. Little is he prepared for what he finds when he reaches the top. The Island is not quite what it appears to be…….
The Island was perhaps the least successful of 2005’s summer blockbuster season. Dogged by lacklustre reviews and a lukewarm reception at the cinema, the film seemed to come and go unnaturally quickly and nothing particularly inspired me to go and see it on the big screen. Now out on region 2 DVD, I approached the island with a sceptical air of indifference, expecting very little.
I have to say I was rather taken by surprise. I’m a little puzzled as to the reaction to the film, because I really enjoyed it. As far as action goes, The Island certainly isn’t short on blockbuster spectacle and at the heart of it all is a purposeful story that morally lifts the story some way above your average popcorner.
It’s no spoiler (it says it on the bleedin’ DVD cover) to learn that the inhabitants of The Island are in actual fact clones, mercilessly being farmed by a greedy corporation who are bending every rule and regulation to charge the rich and famous disgusting fees simply to help them live longer. The human beings are farmed like cattle and then reared and educated in isolation to lead “happy” lives, inspired by their apparent salvation from the world outside and the promise of better things. When they have reached an appopriate stage in their development, The Island lottery transports them off as a cover for the fact that they are in fact to be farmed for their organs and then casually disposed of like a cheap commodity. The owners of the colony are breaking most of the laws set around cloning, but the world seems content to pretend that nothing untoward is happening. Out of sight is out of mind, after all.
The pieces of the puzzle fall together pretty early on in the film and the larger part of the movie is in actual fact based around the pursuit of Lincoln 6 Echo and Jordan 2 Delta as they escape from the colony and embark on a journey of discovery about who, or what, they really are. It is once they escape into the “real” world that the action really picks up, as the colony owners decide that they must be neutralised at all costs and Albert Laurent and his specialist team of bounty hunters is employed to do the job.
The appeal for me in this film was really two-fold. Firstly, I thought that the characterisation of Lincoln and Jordan was very endearing, due in part to the fact that we learn that although they are physically adults, their education and development actually puts them around 15 years old mentally, meaning that they approach everything with a childish sense of curiosity and excitement. It’s a concept that works really well and given the rather disturbing nature of what is actually going on you do, of course, find yourself rooting for them even more. Their journey of discovery and devlopment also enables the writers to investigate the idea of what a cloned human mind would be like and how it would share “ghost” memories with the original person.
The second, inescapable, appeal of the film is the exciting action scenes, generally featuring Lincoln and Jordan getting themselves in and out of one scrape after another. The highlight of the whole piece is undoubtedly a pursuit scene involving Lincoln and Jordan aboard a huge lorry loaded with metal train wheels and Lincoln’s subsequent use of said objects to throw their hunters off the trail. There are some truly spectacular scenes of carnage that amply demonstrate Michael Bay’s innovative flair for “smash and crash”. One things for sure – he knows how to blow stuff up! It’s all hugely appealing for action-movie fans but also undeniably skilfully put together, even if you aren’t a fan of the genre. Special effects are, not surprsingly, used extensively throughout the movie, but are always pretty competently done.
The cast is pretty strong and all very “watchable”. Ewan McGregor’s lead provides welcome relief from his idiotic and irritating Star Wars character and reminds us that he’s neither a bad actor nor a bad looker. Equally buffed and beautiful is the female lead, Scarlett Johannson, who pouts and posturises from start to finish but both of them fill their rather tight white tunics in all the right places. As soon as Sean Bean appears on the screen, it becomes pretty evident that he will quickly become their nemesis, and true to form he is soon exposed as the villain of the piece. He is, nonetheless, effortlessly unpleasant in the role and more than capable of sneering at every required opportunity. Djimon Honsou’s turn at chief bounty hunter Laurent is also an effective one, although it is always evident that his character has hidden depths. The other notable appearance comes from Steve Buscemi who is as quirky as ever but disappears a little too quickly for us to really appreciate.
The Island is a slick, polished popcorn action movie, in which I was pretty engrossed from start to finish. The topical subject matter is explored, rather than exploited and whilst it isn’t exactly the most intelligent movie that you’ll ever see, some pertinent questions are asked. The action scenes alone would be enough to merit a viewing but the finished product remains highly watchable.
The region 2 DVD was released early in January with a 15 certificate, as per the UK cinema release. Some scenes in the film are quite unpleasant, partly through scenes of medical violence but more often through the implication of what is going on. These scenes are, however, entirely appropriate to the content, which portrays a sinister and unpleasant world.
The region 2 DVD presentation is far from inspiring and plays down this release to an extent that I suspect a special edition will follow at some point in the future. The menu structure on the disc is, in itself, rather uninteresting and little effort is put into things. The only standard extra is a short (fifteen-minute) behind the scenes documentary, which outlines some of the secrets behind the more impressive scenes (including the train wheels). Even this feels rather hurriedly put together and could only be described as a featurette, as opposed to a fuly blown feature. Some of the insights shown in the documentary are quite interesting – the scale and detail of the set pieces is impressive and it’s fascinating to see how some of the stunts were carried off. More please! The most logical extra would have been a documentary on the whole cloning concept and more detail about some of the science/fiction employed throughout the film.
The DVD can also be played in a PC or laptop, with links to more online content – which I haven’t really bothered with. The film works well on TV, although I can’t help thinking that some of the big action scenes could only truly be appreciated on the big screen. Subtitles are available in many languages, although I was slightly confused by having to select Australian to get the English presentation.
Surprisingly, there are no deleted scens on the DVD. The film is already more than two hours long, but you normally find that movies of this nature tend to be edited quite sharply to keep the momentum going and DVD extras nearly always seem to contain unused footage. A director’s cut is certainly a future possibility, although I would struggle to see huge changes that could be made as few scenes are of little enough consequence to dispose of. There are no commentaries provided on the disc either, which leads me even further to believe that another version will follow. The current UK retail price is also quite low – even high street retailers are selling the disc at around £12.99, and the studio seems to have focused on lower price, lesser content to try and buoy sales of the disc to an unexpectant public.
If you like action and / or science fiction films, then I think you would certainly enjoy The Island and if you’re not obssessed with limitless extras (I’m certainly not!) you will also appreciate the lower price.
Recommended - but expect a special edition to follow for the real buffs out there.
Best Price (at time of publish): £10.99 – www.amazon.co.uk
Discs: 1 - Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic
English - Dolby Digital (5.1)
Run Time: 2 Hours 07 minutes (approx)
Summary: Good actioner, generally overlooked by the popular press