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< Entertainment >

New Movie Reviews

"The Island"

by Michael Handorf
handorf@comcast.net

Ewan McGregor. Scarlett Johansson. Sci-fi / Thriller.
 
Synopsis: Two inhabitants of a futuristic, contained utopia uncover a deadly plot and attempt to escape their destiny.
 
Review: Quite possibly the best science fiction movie I’ve seen in the last 3 years.
 
Lincoln 6 Echo (McGregor) and Jordan 2 Delta (Johansson) are acquaintances in a world a decade and a half away.  They live in a clean, homogenous environment in which everyone has stylish white track suits and Puma sneakers.
 
It would be almost impossible to list the science fiction influences evident, but there are significant glimpses of The Matrix, 1984, The Running Man, Logan’s Run and They Live .
 
Lincoln awakes one morning. A thin, horizontal, stock ticker-like monitor in his bedroom notifies him that erratic REM sleep patterns were detected, and that he should report to the wellness center.  As he relieves himself, another such monitor in his bathroom reads “excess sodium levels detected,” and that his nutritional plan has been altered accordingly.
 
In queue for breakfast, his options are fruit, oatmeal or bran. “No bacon?” he jokes.
 
Our first indication that this can’t be quite such a physically perfect society is that the food server isn’t in the pristine physical condition that the white, track suit-clad diners are.
 
Lincoln proceeds to work, where he injects nutritional liquids into tubes that run along the table at his workstation. He doesn’t know why he does this, or where the tubes lead.
 
Jordan works nearby in the lab, and both look forward to the daily announcements of which residents have won the lottery and are permitted to travel to ‘the island,’ the last pathogen-free zone on the planet.
 
Lincoln has a techie friend named McCord (Steve Buscemi) who shows him some of the darker recesses of their world. McCord isn’t a member of the track suit elite, but he does share his liquor with Lincoln, a commodity apparently not readily available in this society.
 
Jordan’s name is drawn in the lottery one evening, and she’ll be leaving for the island the next morning.  But that night, Lincoln ventures into a restricted area only to uncover that the previous day’s lottery winner was taken not to the island, but to a hidden operating room in which his organs were to be harvested.
 
Lincoln puts two and two together rather quickly for someone whose entire existence and reality has been a lie.  He gathers Jordan, and the two begin an unlikely escape.
 
Now the film moves from a sterilized utopia in which everything seems extremely calculated to the ‘alternate’ reality, which is, for most people, the actual reality.  An America that doesn’t seem like much of a departure from the one in which we find ourselves today.  There are seedy bars, streetlights, a structured class system, ice cream vendors, sporting events, credit cards, advertising - all the things that make our American existence wonderful.
 
In a remarkably lucky turn of events, Lincoln and Jordan find McCord, who doesn’t want to reveal the truth about their situation, but does so anyway: “You’re copies of people living out here in the real world. You are spare parts.”
 
Lincoln and Jordan decide to track down their makers (literally - the people who purchased them as insurance policies) in the hope that once they are confronted with the reality of what is going on, they will help ‘free’ all the clones at Merrick Laboratories.
Of course, Lincoln and Jordan don’t take into consideration that anyone who would buy a clone in order to have an endless supply of soft skin or a replacement liver might not necessarily be concerned with the welfare of an exact DNA replication that they never intended to meet.
 
A lot of philosophical issues are in play here, and I’m not certain if all of them are intentional.
 
There are hints of anti-capitalist arguments that surface in the first half of the film - Marx’s argument that workers in a capitalistic system don’t own the means of production and are disconnected from the product of their work.  Therefore, they don’t work for the satisfaction of the creation of a good or service, but rather to be compensated.  That is clearly the case here: Lincoln and Jordan don’t know why they are filling these tubes with nutritional liquids, or where the tubes lead.  Later they find that the tubes are used to nurture other clones. So, horrifically, they are much more associated with the product of their work than Marx could ever have feared - they are, in effect, the product.
 
The obvious clone debate is dead center. People are able to purchase a clone as an insurance policy and the general public seems to be unaware of this practice.
 
There is also a very interesting legal twist I hadn’t previously considered - If your clone gets out into the general population and commits a crime, you will most likely be arrested and charged with the crime.  After all, you and your clone share the exact same DNA.
 
This is an excellent film. The casting and direction work well.  There is a welcome mix of action, sci-fi intrigue and general empathy for Lincoln and Jordan.
 
For director Michael Bay, he has successfully created a film (unlike his previous efforts - Bad Boys, The Rock, Pearl Harbor ) in which the plot can’t be described in fewer than ten words.

OVERALL GRADE: B+

 

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