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Michael Bay
Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan
Writing Credits:
Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Plan Your Escape.

Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson lead an all-star cast as residents of an isolated, high-tech compound. But when they discover they're actually clones, and worth more dead than alive, they stage a daring escape. Battling an unfamiliar environment and an armed team of mercenaries in hot pursuit, they'll risk their lives and freedom to save those they left behind - and reveal the truth about The Island.

Box Office:
$122 million.
Opening Weekend
$12.409 million on 3122 screens.
Domestic Gross
$35.799 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 136 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 12/13/2005

• Audio Commentary with Director Michael Bay
• “The Future In Action” Featurette


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Island (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 19, 2005)

Michael Bay gets beaten up by so many folks that I sometimes almost feel sorry for him. The poster boy for music video-style film directors, I think Bay receives so much abuse because of his consistent success. He made five movies from 1995 to 2003. These started with Bad Boys and ended with its sequel. In between we got 1996’s The Rock, 1998’s Armageddon and 2001’s Pearl Harbor.

The common denominator among these films? They raked in lots of money. Actually, the $65 gross of Bad Boys doesn’t sound great, but given that it was an unheralded debut film that starred two then-minor actors in Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, that was a good take. None of the next four films made less than The Rock’s $134 million, while Armageddon’s $201 million set the bar as Bay’s biggest-grossing flick.

The Island brought Bay back down to earth – and then some. Despite a budget of well over $100 million and a prime July release date, The Island nabbed a pathetic $35 million in the US. That means it resides below duds like Beautyshop and Fever Pitch on 2005’s box office charts.

We’ll have to wait to see if this means audiences have tired of Bay’s shtick or if this is a blip. Set in 2019, The Island starts in sterile indoor society created due to “contamination” of the outside. Only one natural enclave remains, a spot called “The Island” where residents can go if the win the lottery. Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) chafes against the heavy restrictions placed on him and the others. He develops a friendship with – and clear romantic interest in – Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) but can’t pursue this too heavily because the rules strictly prohibit physical closeness.

Eventually Lincoln discovers a dark secret: nothing contaminated the outside and there is no “Island”. In addition, he finds that the lottery “winners” are actually clones used either to harvest replacement parts for wealthy folks or as surrogate mothers to bear children.

Unsurprisingly, Lincoln doesn’t take this news very well, and the situation becomes even more complicated when Jordan gets chosen to go to the Island. Lincoln snags her before the authorities get to her and the pair escape to the outside. The movie follows their journey as they attempt to learn more about their situation and also stay away from pursuers led by mercenary Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou).

If nothing else, The Island provides pretty good entertainment – once. I saw the flick theatrically last summer and enjoyed it. While I found nothing especially memorable about it, I thought the movie offered a lively diversion.

On second viewing, the strengths of The Island recede and its weaknesses come to the forefront. When I first watched the film, its intriguing premise and vivid action sequences made me enjoy it. Unfortunately, on subsequent viewings, the former seems more simplistic and the latter become less exciting.

If there’s one thing Bay knows how to do, it’s stage a powerful action scene. To be sure, he offers some good ones here. Once Lincoln and Jordan make it out of the complex, they’re involved in many life or death situations, and the movie takes good advantage of those.

They’re just not enough to sustain a poorly-explored plot and an excessively-long running time. Length is almost always a problem for Bay. Of his six films, only Bad Boys ran less than 136 minutes; it clocked in at a hair under two hours. In addition to The Island, The Rock filled 136 minutes, while Bad Boys II went for 147 minutes and Armageddon was a precise two and a half hours. Pearl Harbor topped them all with its running time of over three hours.

The 136 of The Island would be time well spent if Bay could actually dig into his subject with gusto. Unfortunately, the ethical issues involved with the harvesting of clones exist solely as a backdrop for the action sequences. The movie never invests very well in its characters or themes, as they feel like props for the chases and explosions.

No, Bay didn’t populate his better movies with substantially greater depth. They used stock characters for the most part, but he still managed to eke some emotion and personality out of them. That never happens here. Perhaps it shouldn’t happen given the unformed nature of the clones’ personalities, but it still doesn’t make for good viewing.

Really, Bay veers on the edge of self-parody here. With his constantly swirling camera, shots that swoop into the faces of characters for dramatic effect, and omnipresent slow motion, I get the impression he’s running on fumes. He seems to use these techniques because he feels they’re part of his “style”, not because they make any sense within the framework of the movie.

Unlike many, I do believe Bay has true talent as a filmmaker. He shows glimmers of this in The Island, and as I mentioned earlier, you’ll probably have a reasonably good time with it during one screening. On closer inspection, however, it becomes more apparent that Bay can’t figure out how to do much more than recycle the same tricks, and these mean that the movie never becomes much more than a procession of stale sequences.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A/ Bonus B-

The Island appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though the transfer offered quite a few strengths, it wasn’t quite as stellar as I expected.

Sharpness usually fared well. Some shots looked a bit soft and indistinct, but those didn’t occur with much frequency. Instead, the majority of the film was clear and concise. I saw no concerns with jagged edges or shimmering, but mild edge enhancement appeared sporadically. As for print flaws, I noticed a couple of specks but no other issues.

As expected, Bay infused The Island with a highly stylized palette. This usually split into two tones. The shots back at the indoor society seemed cold and sterile, while the rest of the flick exhibited a warm, golden hue. Across the board, the colors worked fine within their stylistic restrictions. Blacks were dense and firm, while low-light shots exhibited solid clarity and definition. This transfer satisfied most of the time and occasionally looked great.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Island suffered from no relative problems. Instead, it gave us the kind of slam-bang mix that one would anticipate from a loud action flick like this. The soundfield used all five channels to great effect. Since the film poured on the raucous set pieces, the track got more than a few opportunities to shine, and it lived up to expectations. Elements always seemed accurately placed and they meshed together smoothly. The surrounds contributed good ambience during the rare quiet scenes, and they kicked into overdrive during the many loud ones. Check out the extended road chase to find some vivid and involving audio. Cars zoomed all over the spectrum, bullets flew, and the piece created a great sense of action.

Audio quality also seemed positive. Speech was always natural and distinctive, and I noticed no concerns connected to edginess or intelligibility. Music often got subsumed to the action pieces, but the score and songs nonetheless came across as lively and well reproduced, with a good presentation of dynamics. Effects were accurate and detailed. They seemed firmly displayed and showed great punch. All those elements were tight and concise, and they never suffered from any distortion. Overall, The Island gave us an excellent soundtrack.

Only two supplements appear on this DVD. Though not listed in the packaging, we get an audio commentary from director Michael Bay. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Bay touches on the usual topics. He gets into casting and working with the actors, locations and sets, stunts and visual effects, story issues and changes to the script, and production demands.

Reason to like Bay: he discusses the movie’s financial failure in the US. Bay believes the film tanked due to a poor promotional campaign. While this sounds like excuse making, I agree with him. The studio sold the flick really poorly. Would it have been a hit with more interesting ads? We’ll never know, but I’d imagine it would have been more successful.

Reason to dislike Bay: he mentions that Scarlett Johansson wanted to do her love scene nude but he insisted she wear undergarments so they’d keep a “PG-13”. Dude, you couldn’t shoot it both ways? Don’t the words “unrated DVD” mean anything to you?

While Bay covers appropriate subjects and gives us a reasonable overview of his film, his commentary never really gets going terribly well. He tends to speak in fits and starts, so the track doesn’t become consistent enough to truly engage. There’s a fair amount of dead air; while the gaps don’t last very long, they pop up often enough to make the commentary drag at times. Bay presents a good enough look at the flick, but he doesn’t make it anything special.

For the other extra, we find a 15-minute and 31-minute featurette called The Future In Action. This provides movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and comments. We hear from Bay, producer Ian Bryce, stunt coordinator Ken Bates, special effects supervisor John Frazier, visual effects supervisor Eric Brevig, director of photography Mauro Fiore, technical advisor Harry Humphries, digital production supervisor Christopher Townsend, aerial coordinator/pilot Alan Purwin and actors Djimon Hounsou and Michael Clarke Duncan.

The featurette covers the creation of the movie’s action, with an emphasis on one of the big chase sequences. We get a look at all the stunts and effects that go into it. This ends up as a tight little piece with enough detail to make it worthwhile.

The Island works as a decent action film once, but it doesn’t hold up to additional viewings. Those reveal it as a thin, glossy film without enough excitement to make it worthwhile. The DVD presents erratic but generally positive picture with excellent audio. As for the extras, we don’t get much, but the components are fairly informative. Since I liked it theatrically, I can recommend The Island as a rental, but since I didn’t care for it the second time, I’d skip a purchase.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8695 Stars Number of Votes: 23
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