Lincoln 6 Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan 2 Delta (Scarlett Johansson) are among hundreds of inhabitants who know nothing but the artificial, sealed world in which they live. Daily lotteries decide who gets to go to The Island, presented to them as a beautiful utopian haven 'outside' that is safe from the contamination that has necessitated the locked and clinically controlled environment. They don't know that they are specially cultivated and very expensive human clones marketed to the rich and famous as body spares to elongate life or cheat death, by the entrepreneur businessman Merrick (Sean Bean). When, unexpectedly, Lincoln and Jordan develop a sense of curiosity and manage to escape with help from rogue mechanic, McCord (Steve Buscemi), Merrick's billion dollar business is in grave danger, especially as Lincoln 6 Echo is now heading for a face to face confrontation with the rich young designer who had him cloned, his 'sponsor', Tom Lincoln.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Imagine a time when you can order a clone of yourself to be grown and kept alive in secret so if you need new kidneys, new facial skin or a nice new set of full young lips, you just dial it up for delivery. What's so outrageous about that, I hear the chorus from Beverly Hills and other Hollywood environs; it's already sort of happening, without the cloning bit. And that's one reason why the screenplay resonates as genuine sci fi, feeding into present day realities as it does, worked over by the more commonplace elements of greed and megalomania, which this film's bad boy Merrick (Sean Bean) displays in all its destructive ugliness of spirit.
The filmmakers hold off on the revelations and explanations well into the film's lengthy running time, partly to keep us guessing and sitting tense in our seats, partly to engineer the early sequences with as much excitement of the unpredictable as possible. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson are well cast and use their talents to bring off this scary yet unbelievable scenario, always adding a layer of humanity to their cloned personas. This is harder than it sounds, because we are informed they have been programmed with limited human characteristics. Indeed, this is where Merrick's plan falls down: he doesn't allow for the growth of memory that enables Lincoln, for example, to drive a flying motorbike. But his 'sponsor' Tom Lincoln - who is the source of Lincoln's existence - does know very well how to drive that machine.
Merrick's scientists are also able to turn off sexuality in their clones, which is a sensible ambition in the circumstances, but again, likely to fail. We don't get too much of an insight into this, other than via some newfound excitement about tongue kissing. And even this is done with a touch of humour, which bubbles dryly to the surface here and there, especially in the form of Steve Buscemi's gruff but likeable character.
But this is a Michael Bay film, so there are many major stunts to keep a strong grip on the interest of anyone who is not too concerned about the finer moral issues of the cloning debate. Built into the story are several chases, including the mandatory freeway chase in which yet new forms of car destruction are invented. Thrilling and almost overwhelmingly packed with action, The Island meets all the demands placed on it. Design is futuristically furious, and the only reference to old world methods is a lazy little gaff, when at one stage Merrick is about to pay his security consultant Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou), he tells Laurent that he can pick up his cheque downstairs.
As a writer and journalist, I really like the notion that it's human curiosity that triggers the clones to grow personality, feelings and knowledge. It was curiosity that propelled Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and on the road to this mad and crazy world of humanity.
Review by Louise Keller:
A stunning futuristic thriller about cloning and immortality, The Island combines spectacle with controversy. Add the impeccable casting of Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, and you have a passport for intrigue. Big ideas are matched by big budgets and director Michael Bay has pulled out all stops to uncork a winner, appealing not only to those who embrace heady action, but to the thinker and lover of intelligent concepts. Of course memory implants and cloning may not be quite as far-fetched as all that, but The Island takes the premise boldly and runs it full throttle to its natural conclusion.
Much of the film's enjoyment comes from McGregor and Johansson's strong and credible performances as the near perfect Lincoln 6 Echo and Jordan 2 Delta. From innocents, locked in a mechanical, sterile world where there is no room for curiosity, their eyes are prised wide open, as they are thrown into a manic real world of corruption, power and manipulation.
This is edge of the seat thrills and the massive stunts dazzle, as Lincoln and Jordan learn the hard way the will to survive is hard-wired in us all. They also soon learn that tongue kissing is much more pleasurable than those proximity restrictions of the past. When Lincoln sees a motorbike for the first time, he murmurs 'I want one of those,' and very soon he gets his chance, on a batmobile-looking super-bike that flies between sky scrapers, elevated monorails and swooping helicopters. The sequence when an armoured van is overturned by railway wheels on axels that are tossed from a speeding truck is highly original and terrifying. We are right in the midst of all the action and while special effects are plentiful, they always serve the storyline. Overturned cars look like paper tossing in the breeze, and as the super blonde glamorous Johansson survives a monumental building collapse, a startled site worker mutters in awe, 'I know Jesus loves YOU'.
Sean Bean is deliciously evil as the mastermind Dr Merrick, who commissions hired-gun Djimon Hounsou to track down the runaways. Steve Buscemi brings a touch of pragmatism and a dose of humour ('why do I have to be the one to explain there is no Santa Clause') as the staffer who helps Lincoln and Jordan escape. It is through their innocent eyes that we see the world for the first time, and things really start to heat up when Lincoln meets face to face with his look-alike owner. In a clever twist, Lincoln's owner is Scottish, allowing McGregor to play with his accents as he plays against himself, enabling us to differentiate between the client and the clone. That's when the full moral implications present themselves.
At 138 minutes, the running time is a little long, but the film maintains throughout. Apart from a few repetitive action sequences, The Island is edgy, exciting and exhilarating.
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BEHIND THE SCENES CLIPS
ISLAND, THE (M)
CAST: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan, Ethan Phillips, Brian Stepanek
PRODUCER: Michael Bay, Ian Bryce, Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes
DIRECTOR: Michael Bay
SCRIPT: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Caspian Tredwell-Owen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mauro Fiore
EDITOR: Roger Barton, Paul Rubell, Christian Wagner
MUSIC: Steve Jablonski
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nigel Phelps,
RUNNING TIME: 138 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 28, 2005