The Island

Look, I don’t want to keep on about this but if the local Odeon doesn’t fix their tea machine then I’m really going to get annoyed and start writing letters. Furthermore, I don’t appreciate being sniggered at by a gang of pimply-faced youths when I ask for tea in the first place, as if I’m asking for a magazine off the top shelf. Wankers.

So, The Island, a rip-off of The Clonus Horror (which had the much better tagline “The only thing they don’t use is the scream”) and Spares and directed by the man who brought us such classics as Armageddon and Bad Boys II. The plot was completely revealed in the trailer so there won’t be any surprises or twists and it’s bombed in the US box office. What chance does it have?

Well, I really enjoyed it. The story is intelligent and thought-provoking, particularly with the subject of cloning turning up in the papers so often these days. Ewan MacGregor and Scarlett Johansson (she who will one day be my wife) put in convincing performances even if Ewan’s attempt at an American accent is a bit grating, and you can never go wrong with a bit of Sean Bean or Steve Buscemi in the mix. The action sequences are entertaining if utterly implausible, I cared about the characters and was pleased with the resolution of the film. It’s beautifully shot, from the pristine white of the clone complex to the dusty red of the near-future LA and it was generally all very good.

Weird, huh?

Perhaps I’ve been replaced.

The story revolves around two people (Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan MacGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson)) living in a contained facility within a world supposedly contaminated by plague. Every so often a lottery is held where the winner gets to move to The Island, a tropical paradise and the last place on Earth not ruined by disease. Except, naturally, The Island isn’t real and the inhabitants of the facility are merely clones of people out in the real world, grown as insurance policies — in the event of an accident or illness, a clone exists to provide donor organs.

Lincoln Six Echo discovers all of this after finding a way out of the complex into the hospital above, witnessing genuinely horrific scenes; someone being calmly executed after giving birth, and the most recent lottery winner Starkweather (played by the enormous Michael Clarke Duncan) being operated on and making a terrified dash for freedom when he wakes up with his chest being cut open. Stopping only to drag Jordan along with him (can’t blame him), Lincoln finds a way out into the real world where they plan to track down their counterparts to reveal that they exist.

Aside from a brief moment where Jordan sees herself on a television (showing Johansson’s contemporary Calvin Klein advert, which is either really clever or desperately consumerist, I’m undecided) we never get to see two Scarletts sharing a screen (depriving me of a long-held fantasy). We do get two Ewans at once — Lincoln’s real world counterpart is charmingly sleazy, giving the famous MacGregor grin whenever possible — and it’s played out well, their brief relationship concluding in a way that could have been milked for far longer but will surprise nobody who’s ever seen an episode of Sliders.

And, as I said earlier, this film has been shot beautifully. The stark contrast of the white clone uniforms against the rocky red landscape after their escape works wonderfully, and the action sequences involving various fast-moving cars and bikes are hectic and thrilling without becoming the focus of the film (I have reservations about the bit involving the sign on the side of the building, though).

Sponsored by Microsoft MSN Search and Xbox.

I did have a problem with the product placement; while not quite as obvious as that in I, Robot it’s still annoying and only serves to drag me out of the film — 20 years in the future, I find it unlikely that the current Xbox logo will really be that big a feature, and though I like the idea of roadside internet search booths I can’t imagine they’ll really be plastered with the MSN Search butterfly — now, had they been plastered with the Google logo, I could have believed that.

Still, I can forgive the product placement because the rest of the film works so well, though I remain surprised that the director of Pearl Harbour can turn out something that I really enjoy. What next, an enjoyable Paul Anderson film?