The Island (2005)

Director: Michael Bay

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Michael Clarke Duncan, Steve Buscemi

The advances in modern medicine never cease to amaze. Many diseases and birth defects once regarded as death sentences are now perfectly treatable, or are otherwise a distant memory. Were it not for certain technical achievements, I would not be here today to type these words. Transplant surgery is one of the more miraculous ideas we’ve come up with to extend life. You sign a donor card and, upon your death, your liver, heart, kidneys, etc. can legally be used to save the life of another whose corresponding organs are failing them. Still, even with this great invention of science, there is the shameful waiting list. People have died believing they would get the transplant they need, only to be put on hold or passed over completely for various reasons. Sometimes they die because the replacement organs don’t quite agree with their new host bodies. It’s not a perfect system, but it does have more positives than past methods of deciding between who lives and dies.

Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) live in a world where no one gets sick, physical contact is constantly monitored, everyone eats the same boring food and wears the same white clothing. It would be enough to drive you mad, if it wasn’t the only world you’ve ever known and have been told it’s the only part of the world still habitable. What isn’t common knowledge, but the curious Lincoln Six Echo stumbles upon, is that he along with everyone he has ever known is a clone of a real person, and that winning the lottery doesn’t actually result in a highly sought after trip to a place called The Island. What it means is that the clone’s human template requires an organ transplant, the sole reason for their clone’s existence. Armed with this information, Lincoln Six Echo breaks free of his prison with Jordan Two Delta in tow. That’s when the real action begins as the people running the complex give chase, hoping to silence the two clones before they inform the public what’s really going on behind closed doors.

From the same writing team responsible for the “Transformers” films and J.J. Abrams’ two “Star Trek” movies, “The Island” is an uncharacteristically good film from director Michael Bay. Long, but not too long, it isn’t troubled by pacing problems that were only the beginning for the woes of films like “Armageddon” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” Like “Star Trek” and “Star Trek Into Darkness,” it plays like a movie made by fans for fans. “The Island” has many influences, the most obvious comparison being “Logan’s Run” (1976). Both Ewan McGregor and Michael York play characters who live in dystopian societies in blissful ignorance of the truth, escape into the real world once their eyes have been opened, and then return to set things right. One area where the two movies differ is in the reason for the “Carrousel”/”Lottery.” In “The Island,” it’s all for the perpetuity of the population. In “Logan’s Run,” it was a means of population control. Another comparable film is “Blade Runner,” only this time the Replicants being hunted down are depicted as the heroes.

In truth, there is only one reason that initially inspired me to seek out “The Island,” and that is Scarlett Johansson. On top of being a good actress, she’s also a very beautiful lady. This is accentuated by expert camera angles and through Michael Bay’s yellow-orange color scheme in which all his movies seem to be filmed, as though the sun were always beaming down upon the camera. These are the same camera tricks that helped Megan Fox rise to stardom in the first two “Transformers” movies. Definitely more pleasing to the eye than J.J. Abrams’ obsession with lens flares.

For now, the only form of human cloning that exists today is the natural kind, that which results in people being born with an identical twin. Perhaps this is a good thing. We have enough dispute in the United States over the concept of universal health care without adding the moral dilemma of cloning into the mix. I don’t even want to think about the outrage that would result if laws were passed making it perfectly okay for someone to clone themselves only to treat the new lifeform as their own personal organ bank. What would one say if they came face to face with their own clone? Sorry I’m living a life of luxury and decadence while you’re stuck in some shithole with no hopes, dreams or future? This is part of what makes science-fiction so fascinating. We can consider scenarios that could resemble our own future, yet seem so impossibly outrageous that we pray we never live to see the day when such a world becomes reality.


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