Wednesday, 8 July 2015
The Island - Michael Bay - 2005
The films of Michael Bay are known and loved for many reasons but rarely does anyone go to see his latest blockbuster in search of a good story, which makes The Island a pleasant surprise. For the first hour, the film is set entirely within a luxurious containment facility populated by white jump-suited drones and follows the careful investigations of suspicious drone Lincoln-Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) whose insatiable curiosity gradually tears open this carefully constructed reality. Though played as much as a conspiracy thriller than out-and-out sci-fi, the intelligent yet frightening ideas that are slowly revealed behind the scenes make the story far more fascinating and engaging than most of Bay’s standard action fare, crediting his audience with an intelligence that the director does not normally allow for. After the intrigue of the first half it is almost a shock when Lincoln goes on the run with a friend (Scarlett Johansson, unsurprisingly shot to perfection) and Bay returns to what he does best: huge explosions, bigger car chases, and mass destruction all looking gorgeous without much concern for little things like the laws of physics. At times this does feel like Bay has run out of ideas – the collapse of a glass skyscraper with the stars hanging on the side would be repeated in every subsequent Transformers film – but he sustains the pace well enough to ensure the film never gets dull; a highway chase complicated by runaway train wheels is a brutal highlight that puts The Matrix Reloaded to shame. Crucially though the opening hour of intelligent plot raises the stakes and makes the subsequent action more gripping, thanks in no small part to McGregor and Johansson who willingly through themselves into the action headfirst without ever loosing the little touches of humour that makes their two lost drones – essentially grown-up children discovering the real world for the first time – sweetly believable. McGregor in particular relishes the chance to play against himself in the final act, pitting naïve innocent against cocksure wise guy with impressive assurance. The finale that brings the whole film full circle runs out of steam a little before the end but an emotive musical cue from Steve Jablonsky (since used on hundreds of trailers) leaves the film on an satisfactory high proving that even Michael Bay can create something with more than just a glossy finish.