By Kyle | March 9, 2007
138 minutes/Rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, sexual situations).
A product of the sputtering ’70s, “Logan’s Run” built dystopia on the squishy Malthusian foundation that the world was running out of everything. The premise of “The Island” is far more probable – that long after the last drop of fossil fuel is sucked from the shale, there will remain rich lodes of celebrities. Movies instinctively turn real scares into comfortingly phony ones, recasting, for instance, the radical Islamists of “The Sum of All Fears” (book version) as neo-Nazis (film version).
But in “The Island,” a sort of Logan’s rerun that also splices in DNA from “Minority Report” and “Total Recall,” director Michael Bay fills the screen with broken glass by throwing stones at Hollywood’s own house. That’s why it’s his best film since “The Rock.”
Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson play Lincoln Six-Echo and Jordan Two-Delta, a pair of innocent pets of a vast system they don’t understand. Each is coddled and monitored right down to the morning whiz (Lincoln’s urinal warns him to keep that sodium down).
Germs have, they believe, wiped out everyone outside this human habitrail, yet each night a happy lottery winner is awarded a permanent vacation on a paradise known only as the Island.
Lincoln and Jordan don’t know it but they’re “product,” clones grown in pods from scraps of celebrity DNA to supply spare parts. Their world is a flesh farm and they’re as expendable as chickens.
The film is set in 2019, but the day when we’ll be asked to swallow some horror or another in the white-coated name of Science may be considerably closer. One of the script’s many fathers is the front page of the paper. That alone makes it a standout among the action-movie clones.
Not that the action is an afterthought. Bay is, of course, less interested in ethics than in flying motorcycles and rotary blades whup-whup-whupping overhead.
Those flying motorcycles are pretty freaking excellent, by the way, especially when they thread a network of el trains in downtown L.A. (I realize this is sci-fi, but it does stretch credulity to suggest that workable mass transit will ever come to L.A.) One chase turns into a swipe against the live-forever culture: Lincoln attacks his pursuers by unleashing a truckload of industrial spools that look like giant barbells.
Aiding Lincoln and Jordan is a mensch played nicely by Steve Buscemi, who has some funny asides in a movie where the favorite remark is, if I am reading my sloppy notes correctly, “Aaaaaagh!” Or is that, “Aaaggggh”?
Some of the plot links are spongy, but the central idea plays out with much wit. It’s a masterstroke when Jordan discovers one of Scarlett Johansson’s actual Calvin Klein perfume ads, reminding us that pretty starlets will be first in line when offshore cloning companies start offering to grow a backup you for $5 million. Indeed, celebrities are already twirling their batons for the march along this road.
McGregor, pushing an American accent around as glumly as a toddler trying to hide his peas under his mashed potatoes, nevertheless gets a chance to shine late in the frenzy. After “Down With Love,” “Big Fish” and his intergalactically tepid work for George Lucas, it’s shocking to be reminded how brilliant Little Mac was back in the days when no magazine profile failed to call him “edgy.”
You’re a Scot, man: Stop bollixing up foreign accents and wield the mother tongue with pride.