Yup. This is the best thing he’s ever done. There’s some of the usual Bay stuff, like dramatic, slow-motion entrances for bad-ass characters shot from below waist level… and whip-fast cuts from one scene to the next… and even a scene in one of those stately buildings gone to seed. So, if you hate that stuff, you’ll hate The Island.
But what sets it apart from most of his films is the nice character build he does with the main characters, Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson). These two are strangely child-like, but still clearly into each other, as they live their simple lives in a safety zone after a devastating plague. The best thing the survivors here have to look forward to (except for sneaking extra bacon at breakfast) is the possibility that the Lottery will call their name, and they’ll be able to escape to the last pristine place in the world, the Island.
The best way to see this film is to simply accept this story at face value and learn the truth of their situation as the film unspools. This, of course, is not the way cinema works. Which is a shame. Because if your film is about clones and organ harvesting, you kind of have to put that into the marketing, don’t you?
Lincoln is a little too curious about the world outside his home, and he manages to learn the secret, and escapes with Jordan. The two being totally unprepared for the modern world gives this otherwise pretty dark film some much needed humor. The sequence wherein Lincoln meets his “sponsor” (the guy who paid for the clone) gives McGregor a chance to act off of himself, and he does a really nice job.
The ending gets a little doofy, in the way these films often do, with the scientist mastermind (Sean Bean, always awesome) going all nuts and fighting with Lincoln himself rather than relying on his army of goons. But that, and a truly stupid scene where the heroes fall off a building with zero consequences, are the only places I really got bounced out of the film. It’s easily the best acted, best paced, and most philosophically intriguing thing Bay has ever come within ten miles of.
This is also one of the many examples of a film where Djimon Hounsou really should die, but doesn’t.
Djimon Hounsou was in The Island with Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson was in…