BRING ON THE 'SPLOSIONS
Note: To the readers who've seen the trailers to "The Island," this review contains no spoilers. To the five people in the country who haven't seen the promos or are aware of the plot revelations, some crucial plot information is revealed.
We meet Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) early on in the film, as a resident of a sterile futuristic community isolated from the outside world, because a global contamination catastrophe forced all survivors into the well-regulated city beneath the surface.
Fortunately, Earth has one last uncontaminated oasis known only as "The Island" where lucky citizens are randomly chosen from a daily lottery to leave the community and go where paradise awaits and Big Brother is restricted.
Lincoln is skeptic about tales of white sandy beaches and begins aggressively questioning the head authority, Merrick (Sean Bean) about everything. Why are diets so heavily monitored that the slightest elevation of sodium in the urine means no more bacon at breakfast? Why does everyone wear white and who is doing the washing? And what is up with this proximity rule that keeps boys and girls apart?
Fitting the pieces together Lincoln comes up with the theory that the Island doesn't actually exist, but is just a ploy used to keep morale up and the people complacent. But what really happens here? The situation turns desperate when Lincoln's best friend, Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), becomes the latest winner of the lottery and begins packing her bags for her mysterious voyage.
This leads to that and that leads to this, and soon Lincoln and Jordan are on the run from Merrick and his professional mercenary team led by Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou) and his band of machinegun-toting roughneck bounty hunters.
At this point the film's genre transforms from intriguing science fiction to Michael Bay action. And because this is a Michael Bay action film directed by Michael Bay, we get lots of 'splosions in the form of car chases, motorcycle chases, hovercraft chases, and even more car chases. It all works, though, and the scene with the truck that releases King Kong-size dumbbells onto the freeway is actually kind of exhilarating. If you thought "The Fast and the Furious" exasperated the car chase and "The Matrix" did everything left that's good to do with car chases, think again.
Lincoln and Jordan are assisted by McCord (Steve Buscemi), a know-everything mechanic of some sort who fills in them in on the details such as, "you're not humans but -- how do I say this? -- more like clones."
"The Island" never really slows down enough to ponder the ethical issues and consequences of human cloning, but the movie would serve as an excellent propaganda film for the Republican Party…that is if Republicans liked movies.
Michael Clarke Duncan makes a quick appearance in a small role as one of the thousands of ignorant citizens waiting to go the Island. When fate has alternate plans for him you can't help but wonder if the prospect of cloning is in our near future. When we get a glimpse of his "sponsor" posing for an advertisement poster back in the real world, we try to imagine a scenario where human cloning can take place that is both humane for the maternity-born human and his clone.
The climax goes over the top and more things blow up that probably should, but the overall concept of the film is fascinating. So much so that I can forgive any of the shortcomings one would expect while watching a Michael Bay film.
The product placement is little intense for my liking, but doesn't become offensive like the ads in "Fantastic Four." Still, prepare for Puma, Xbox, Aquafina and Michelob Light logos scattered about the background.
It doesn't quite achieve the level of marvel the masterpiece "Dark City" accomplished, but the plot flirts along the same line, that whatever you think you know about your life and past is only a memory that could turn out to be a complete fabrication.
"The Island" is everything you want from a summer action blockbuster: action, good special effects and a marginally interesting story. The story here -- if not completely original -- exceeds expectations and gets us thinking about where we're headed in the medical field; starting with stem-cell research.
One more note: if I've learned anything from the movies -whenever anybody with ominous eyes asks if you've told anyone about a potentially dastardly secret, tell them "yes, I've told five people, and if they don't hear from me by tomorrow they're going to get the word out and bring you down!"