Go, go, go!" "Come on, come on!" "He's coming back." That's the way people talk, or better, that's the way people scream in Michael Bay's The Island. And then things blow up. Bay has previously practiced his brand of cinematic demolition in such big-budget summer action flicks as Armageddon and The Rock, and I'll say this for him: If you enjoy the kind of stuff he does, he delivers. His pictures cost zillions, but, as they like to say in Lala Land, "the money's all up there on the screen." When he determines to demolish things, he reduces them to molecules. But be warned; his movies are marathons. The credits claim that The Island checks in at only 136 minutes, but it seems about twice that long.
Written (if you can term a screenplay for something like this writing) by Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, The Island takes up the stem-cell-research-begets-cloning debate from the alarmist perspective. We're in 2019, and some really bad stuff is going on. An evil bio-engineer named Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean) has discovered that his desire to grow replacement body parts in vats of saline solution just doesn't work for dad-gum reasons we needn't bother ourselves about. He has found, however, that he can grow perfectly acceptable entire human beings who can hang around to eat right and stay fit until it's time to be murdered for their organs.
Merrick's operation requires the acquisition of boxcars of cash from rich people, the clandestine cooperation of the U.S. government including the president, and the assistance of an entire army of sadistic clone wranglers who don't appear to have anywhere to live but are nonetheless almost unanimously silent about how they earn their living. The lone blabbermouth is Steve Buscemi, who must have been included when some suit decided the flick needed some comic relief. The clones themselves are kept in preposterous docility by participation in daily lotteries to move to an island paradise that remains the only place on earth free of unspecified contaminants. We might wonder if this is perhaps a shot at the narcotic implications of next-life religious beliefs. But such musings won't occupy us long.
Our hero (go, go, go!) in this piece is Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor). Lincoln is 3, though I don't know what age he thinks he is. He's been designed to supply a liver for a rich automotive designer. But Six Echo doesn't behave right. He thinks about things and wonders if life ought to involve somewhat more than walking around in a white track suit, eating three squares, working out, attaching little bottles to valves on clear plastic tubes and whispering briefly to his "best friend" Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson). Lincoln and Jordan have evidently been cloned without hormones because they have no sexual urges toward each other at all. Until later in the picture, of course, when, consistency notwithstanding, we need, as Pauline Kael liked to phrase it, some kiss-kiss to go with our bang-bang.
Oh yes, a plot: One day Lincoln borrows a key from a guy not remotely likely to lend it to him, goes through a door he shouldn't, scampers up a very high ladder it makes no sense to climb, pops through a floor panel onto a forbidden wing of the institute and in short order manages to observe a couple of fellow clones being harvested. Go, go, go! So, naturally, he rushes back to find Jordan (come on, come on) and the two of them pull off an initial escape that is only less ludicrous than all the escapes to come. The rest is a two-hour chase, with brief respites here and there for some underdeveloped comedy and ersatz romance. The latter produces my favorite line in the film, Lincoln to Jordan: "Do that tongue thing again; it's terrific."
The action structure of the movie is built around two pillars. Late in the game, assorted baddies pursue our heroes who are fleeing on a "flying motorcycle" until they crash through the glass walls of a Regency hotel and come to rest 70 floors up on the glowing red R. This has all the veracity of those weapons of mass destruction, but like them, it provides the occasion for a lot of things getting smashed. The master Bay sequence arrives mid-picture when Lincoln and Jordan have taken refuge on a flat-bed 18-wheeler and are chased along a freeway by a caravan of killers. The bad guys have an armory of machine guns. But Jordan looks fetchingly terrified while Lincoln fights back by rolling railroad wheels and axles off the back of the truck. That's one I hadn't ever seen before, and it's spectacular. In short, since you know the end is sure to devise a mano-a-mano between Lincoln and Merrick, if you've finished your popcorn by the time those axles cut an armored car in half, you can safely go, go, go!
- Is it because we're blondes? Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) try to figure out their status as clones in Michael Bay's latest eye candy, The Island.