Take several parts Logan’s Run, add a few teaspoons of THX-1138 and shake it all together with a atypically restrained helping of Michael Bay, and you come up with The Island. This is a not-altogether original science fiction action movie that manages not to egregiously insult the intelligence of its audience. In other words, it’s not Armageddon, which is the minimum that I ask from a movie.
A population of sheltered, almost childlike people live in a hermetically sealed city, supposedly protected from an outside world devasted by something like a worldwide plague. Every so often, one lucky inhabitant wins a lottery that allows him or her to be relocated to “the Island,” the last habitable place in the outside world.
Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) is unusually curious for one of the inhabitants. This earns him the scrutiny of Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean), who is apparently the man in charge of the well-being of the people in the city. When he discovers an insect from the outside, Lincoln’s curiosity leads him up a ladder to what looks like a hospital. There he learns that the lottery winners aren’t lucky at all. The “island” is an operating room where they are harvested for their organs. All of the residents are clones of very rich people in the real world, created illegally as involuntary organ donors. As it turns out, Lincoln’s close friend Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson) is the latest winner. He returns to rescue her and they both manage to flee the city.
What ensues then is a fairly routine chase thriller as Lincoln and Jordan, pursued by Merrick’s relentless operative, Laurent (Djimon Hounsou), attempt to reach their respective “clients” to expose what’s going on. The main problem with this section of the film is that our heroes largely succeed in their escape because Laurent’s henchman are repeatedly taken out by their stupidity. These guys are supposed to be ex-Special Forces and they seem more like the Keystone Kops.
The film does touch on some very real issues related to the concept of human cloning, but like Jurassic Park, doesn’t so much deal with them as use them as the launch pad for long drawn out chase scenes. Lincoln and Jordan’s escape takes place about a half-hour into a 136-minute running time. The chase portion drags as it tries to fill out the rest of the movie.
Set in the year 2019, The Island seems initially to suffer from Demolition Man syndrome, postulating changes far too drastic given the short time-span from the present. Then Lincoln and Jordan escape into a world that seems a lot more like our own and you think, “Okay, I can almost buy this.” But when the story reaches Los Angeles and we see an extensive working Maglev train system, we’re right back into the world of fantasy. Come on, this is L.A. we’re talking about. It would take until 2019 just to get the funding approved for that kind of mass transit.
As a rehash of ideas that have been done before, The Island is a competently-made two-plus-hours of eye-candy.