Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Island

directed by Michael Bay

The Island poster  
In a sealed community, the survivors of an apocalyptic disaster live a clean and comfortable existence. Their health is closely monitored, and their lives are regulated by supervisors who watch everything from what they eat to how close they stand to each other. Their main ambition is to go to The Island, the only place on Earth left untouched by contamination.

Lincoln Six Echo starts to question his existence on the complex. He wonders about everything, from who washes his clothes to what his job is actually for. Lincoln's disturbed sleep and questioning nature are soon picked up on, and he is sent to see the doctor. The Island is like a cleaner, more high-tech version of Orwell's 1984.

To the inmates, Merrick (played by Sean Bean) is just the doctor. In a truly wince-inducing scene he sends robotic spiders to examine Lincoln's brain, to get to the bottom of his nightmares. Not even their thoughts are private. On the face of it the inhabitants of the complex experience a cosseted life where every care is taken for their welfare. But something much more sinister is going on.

Lincoln Six Echo's friendship with the technician McCord (Steve Buscemi) allows him access to areas that are normally forbidden to regular inhabitants. He soon discovers that the Island is a myth, and that he and all his friends are spare parts clones on an organ farm.

There are a few scientific improbabilities that mar the story. Lincoln Six Echo begins to develop memories that are not his own, as though these could be passed on at a cellular level. The sponsors who are paying for clones are told that their doubles are kept in a persistent vegetive state. The reason for secretly keeping them awake is that their organs will fail unless the brain is kept active. If that were true, people would not be able to survive in comas for years at a time.

Another oddity is the way the clones accept a life where they are forbidden to touch. Lincoln Six Echo develops a close friendship with Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johannson), but they are as ignorant of sex as children are. But it's hard to believe that two healthy adults would be unaware of sexual feelings for long.

The latter half of The Island is taken up with a bloody, frenzied escape. The thoughtful tone changes and this morphs into a standard chase movie with explosions, shooting and a messy hit squad. In effect we are promised intelligent discussion, and the high-octane chasing and fighting really only serves to interrupt that.

This film is based around interesting ideas about our increasing abilities to buy and extend life. In spite of some inconsistencies it's an enjoyable film with a few nods to The Prisoner and a resemblance to classics such as 1984. However, by conforming to Hollywood conventions about violent car chases and the way a film should end, some of the impact of its message is lost.

Film Details

Year: 2005

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson