August 28, 2005

The Island movie review

Movie image
The Island
2 out of 5 stars

Michael Bay, by his own admission, makes movies for teenage boys. What this means is that in a Bay movie, you can be fairly, indeed absolutely, sure that there will be beautiful people in flattering lighting, action, guns, and plenty of stuff blowing up real good. Going to see a Michael Bay movie and then complaining about any of those things is like drinking coke and then moaning that it's a bit on the sweet side.

So there's not a lot to say about The Island other than it does what you expect. The story isn't much, a lacklustre mix of Logan's Run and Coma (Logan's Coma?) and nothing that happens isn't hugely predictable from the first five minutes of the film. But there are a couple of mildly interesting things to note:-

  • There's an absolutely stupendous car chase sequence in which our heroes evade (actually, not so much evade as utterly destroy) their pursuers by hitching a ride on a big truck and then untying some enormous train axles which the truck is (conveniently) carrying. These huge axles fall off the truck, down on to the road and vehicular carnage ensues in a genuinely stunning sequence. It's a shame that this sequence is immediately followed by an incoherent, seen-it-all-before jet-bike chase which is a thousand times less well realised.
  • Michael Bay has a strange approach to editing his action sequences. In films generally, and action sequences in particular, part of the point of editing is to clarify what's going on. In a chase sequence, say, you want to know who's chasing who and where the pursuers are in relation to the pursued, where the chase is going, whether the gap is narrowing, and so on. Good editing, traditionally, is one of, maybe even the key, way of helping to show these things. But Bay utterly ignores this tradition; his edits are incredibly quick, and don't attempt to do anything to establish geography or the relative positions of the characters. Instead he seems to prefer to make sure that all the images in his sequences are as striking as they could possibly be – there isn't a dull frame to be seen – and that they edit together to make a sort of action tone poem; the sequences are frequently visually stunning, but you sacrifice all narrative coherence to get them. If you can live with that, it's quite fun, but if you're used to more traditional editing it's just annoying. (Apparently old-school editors have a term for this style: frame-fucking.)
  • Scarlet Johansson has an amusingly self-referential moment when her character watches the "real" (if there is such a thing) Johansson in a Calvin Klein video. Art imitating life?
  • Johansson was just twenty when this film was made. How long before thirty is too old for a female lead in an action movie?

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