The new Michael Bay extravaganza The Island never really piqued my interest that much. I saw commercials, trailers and other types of things for the film and I was never filled with the thought that this was a film that I had to see. More to the point, it was film I most likely knew I was going to see, simply because I am a fan of Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. Also, many times I have gone into Michael Bay films and not really cared that much about them, and then by the end of the movie I am sad that it is over. I overstate this a bit simply because I don't want anyone to think I went into this film with perceived notions that I wouldn't like it. Yet, sadly this is exactly what happened.
Here is the story as I understand it and I apologize if while telling it I give away any spoilers. I am going to make a concerted effort not to do this. McGregor plays Lincoln Six Echo and Johansson plays Jordan Two Delta. These are two people that live in a place that is the last refuge for humanity. They have been told that the world has been destroyed (or contaminated) and they (along with a bunch of other people) are they only survivors. We see people learning all over again in a very controlled environment. In fact, McGregor and Johansson can't even begin to get intimate before some guard or higher authority comes between them. People are selected in a lottery-type way to go to The Island, where they are supposedly going to repopulate the earth. Through a weird chain of events, McGregor finds out that nobody has gone to any island and this is when he and Johansson escape.
Upon entering the real world, where things are "normal", we get to see how they adapt to their new environment. Finally, they corner one of the workers that McGregor was friends with in the research facility he lived in (played by Steve Buscemi) and it is here that they find out they are clones, or "insurance policies", for real people in the real world. McGregor and Johannson decide they must find the people they are cloned after and get this conspiracy out in the open.
Okay, I am not going to say what the scene is, but let me begin by saying that for a movie like this suspension of disbelief is EVERYTHING. Now, the action scenes that Michael Bay has constructed, and there are a hefty amount of them, are very good. They move quickly, they are coherent and we can always tell what is going on. The dialogue, the character development, all of the little nuts and bolts stuff that you would think Bay might eschew is all in there as well. So where does my problem lay, you ask? Well, it has to do with the clones. More to the point it has to do with Johansson's character. I don't want to give too much away, but there is one scene that just completely took me out of the movie. It was enough for me to start not liking this movie. Now, you might be asking, why throw the baby out with the bath water? And I can only say that it was enough of a big deal for me to be completely jolted out of any semblance of reality this film was supposed to have.
I loved the look of the film. I loved the scope. I think the facility where the clones are created looks awesome. I think the way this film comes across is nearly flawless. Also, I think this is one of Ewan McGregor's best performances. In addition to playing Lincoln Six Echo he also plays Tom Lincoln. McGregor is just a good actor. He is someone who easily glides between big and small roles. Everything he does seems effortless to him. He can play a romantic lead, he can play an action hero and he truthfully seems like someone who becomes highly engaged by the roles that he plays. Johansson is good but I feel a bit underused here. I am not sure how great of a range she has, but she has shown chops both in bigger and smaller films. It would be interesting to see what she does when she is given a more meaty role in large film like The Island.
Michael Bay is a master filmmaker. He's no Hitchcock but he's good. He is someone who really knows how to tell a big story. None of his films ever look like they overwhelm him. I have never seen a Michael Bay film and thought, "Man, I was following that just fine and then I got lost." You don't ever hear reviewers deride his films because of this. They just seem to have problems with characters or the over the top nature of his stories. He has done some very credible work on The Island. The film isn't a hodge podge of techno speak and cyberspace lingo. It is actually grounded very much in the here and now. Overall, the film isn't horrible. I would recommend it. I was just so saddened by this one scene. In fact, it's not even a scene. It's just a moment that totally takes the viewer out of what they are watching. It reminds you that you are watching a movie. That you aren't living in that world. And for the fleeting moments of time that this movie lasts, that makes all the difference.