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Bay’s latest an underrated sci-fi thriller

Sean Sweany | Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Would you be willing to prolong your life for 60 to 70 years for the cost of $5 million? What if that meant creating a clone of yourself that could feel, think and love just like you can and then killing that clone in order to save your own life?

The issues at hand in a situation like this are not that far fetched and are tackled in the recently-released DVD “The Island.”

This 2005 film by Michael Bay (“Armageddon”) explores not only the question of what it is to be a human but how humans can play God with the lives of others. The film begins with viewers knowing little more than the protagonist, Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor, “Big Fish,” the “Star Wars” prequels). Echo believes he is a survivor of a worldwide contamination and lives in a seemingly utopian environment. He and other “survivors” await removal to “The Island,” the last uncontaminated spot on Earth.

Lincoln soon discovers that his life is a lie and that there is no “Island.” When his best friend Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson, “Lost in Translation”) is selected to go to the Island, he escapes with her. They receive help from an employee at the company, played by Steve Buscemi (“The Big Lebowski,” “Armageddon”), who tells them that they are clones of wealthy people who plan to harvest their organs when they themselves become sick. From here, the two embark on a high-octane adventure to alert the world to the crimes committed at the cloning facility.

The first part of “The Island” is straight up sci-fi and feels much like 2002’s “Minority Report.” After Lincoln and Jordan escape, the movie becomes a typical Michael Bay action movie, in the vein of “The Rock,” “Armageddon” and “Bad Boys.” Bay pulls off some white-knuckle action scenes, including a very long high-speed chase scene where numerous cars and trucks are destroyed by train wheels rolled off a moving truck.

The acting in this movie is quite good on the whole. McGregor and Johansson have good chemistry together and have the physical ability to do many of their own stunts. The evil leader of the institute is played by long time bad-guy Sean Bean (“National Treasure,” “Goldeneye”), who turns in a respectable performance – although the writing for his part has a far greater potential than is realized.

“The Island” is different than any of Michael Bay’s former films because it contains an intelligent, coherent storyline. The story is not without its problems, but it is one viewers can engage and has characters that are complex and interesting. The future portrayed here is unique without being too outlandish and provides much to look at onscreen. The movie also raises serious questions about the practicality and morality of cloning in an age when these concerns could soon become legitimate. While the film was poorly received in large part due to a bad marketing campaign, it is worth seeing – if not for the questions it raises, then at least for the action.

Although the film is worthwhile and entertaining, “The Island” DVD itself is a big disappointment. For being such a big-budget film, the DVD includes only one featurette. Though it is an interesting look into some of the special effects done in the film, it is too brief – there should be many more featurettes and extras than provided. Additionally, the fact that the video transfer quality is average at best makes this DVD a disappointment.

While the film itself is worthwhile, until a special edition loaded with special features is released, “The Island” DVD is only worth a rental.