Ewan McGregor as Lincoln Six Echo/Tom Lincoln
Scarlett Johansson as Jordan Two Delta/Sarah Jordan
Djimon Hounsou as Albert Laurent
Sean Bean as Merrick
Steve Buscemi as McCord
Michael Clarke Duncan as Starkweather
Ethan Phillips as Jones Three Echo
Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) lives in an enclosed artificial society, the only refuge for mankind in a destroyed world, except one – the Island; a utopian paradise that one inhabitant a month is picked at random to journey to. Lincoln soon learns the truth – the Island doesn’t exist. He and the rest of the inmates, including his best friend Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johannsson) are clones who have been bred as replacement tissue to keep their donors alive and healthy. When Jordan is picked to go to the Island, Lincoln grabs her and runs and soon finds himself in the last place he expected: the real world.
The Island is the latest effort from bombastic director Michael Bay (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor), and probably his best film yet. It’s twisty plot aside, it is certainly the most straightforward film he has yet made. He locks into the story from the beginning and never strays, giving it a strong narrative drive that has few extraneous scenes with even the extended action beats moving the plot forward. There are a few moments, however, of such extreme Bay excess (most particularly a literally unbelievable fall off a building with a giant company logo and a helicopter) that even within the heightened reality of the film, credibility is strained past the breaking point. There are only a couple of such moments, however, and for the most The Island plays fairly straight.
McGregor is rock solid as both Lincoln Six Echo and his ‘real’ alter ego, Tom Lincoln, and some of the film’s best moments come when McGregor interacts with himself. Johansson doesn’t have as much to do – no one else really does, the story is most definitely Lincoln’s and every one else is along for the ride – but what little she has to do, she pulls off well. She has an interesting subplot dealing with her realization that her own survival means the certain death of the ‘real’ Sarah Jordan, but it never really goes anywhere. The Island has a nice sci-fi patina setting up the plot, but it’s not introspective, it’s a chase film – and a good one – with the result that the questions of morality the film intentionally brings up being left completely unexplored.
Steve Buscemi gets to do some nice character work in what little screen time he has, and Djimon Hounsou as the mercenary tracking down the missing ‘product’ is largely wasted – forced to spend most of his time walking around looking imposing – but he does get some good moments towards the end. Sean Bean adds another villain to his repertoire, as the doctor behind the project who has already looked inside himself for the choice between humanity or money, and made his decision. It’s a role Bean’s played well before, and he does so again.
The Island is very much a Michael Bay film, with all of the stylistic touches that entails; however, a strong storyline with little digression makes it easily Bay’s best film to date.
The Island is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexuality and language.