I theorize that Michael Bay is a submissive BDSM enthusiast, who has a Mistress who is an avid enthusiast of well-plotted science-fiction. I say this because "The Island" has, buried in 80% adrenaline-freak chase scenese, a tightly written and well-conceived science fiction story at its heart. I picture Bay, gimp-hood-clad and crawling on the floor at a script meeting, whimpering, "Yes mistress, after the building blows up and they confront their donors, I'll insert a scene in which they discover the magic of human touch and intimacy..." But as a subversive little sub, Bay couldn't help stretching every chase scene just a little bit too long, with a few too many hair-raising stunts that stretch credulity beyond the breaking point.
At its heart, "The Island" is about a society of sterile white-clad people living in the last enclave of uninfected humanity after a massive global plague. They wait their turn to go and populate an island free of contamination, their numbers pulled in a seemingly random fashion. Of course, there's a mystery behind the facility - why is Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan MacGregor) the only one to question what it's all about? Why is their such heavy security, and why are they so adamant about residents not touching each other? And why, oh why does this mean that Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johanssen) won't get naked? Who is the mysterious Dr. Merric (Sean Bean) and why is he so edgy?
Ewan MacGregor steals this movie - he's affable and likeable, and punctures the cold sterility of the first act, and the non-stop action of the last two with zany charm. His child-like good humor is handily explained by the plot, which seems to imply that Michael Bay's Dominatrix liked good character development, too. Each of the actors makes a good turn, no matter how hackneyed their roles, like Sean Bean's doctor with a god-complex. I suppose the palette with which to paint mad scientists is fairly limited, but even so, Bean's take on it is more coolly menacing, more unflappably rational than historic Bad Science Villains.
The action takes up 2/3 of the movie, but warrants very little mention. Scene after scene attempts to raise the bar on death-defying stunts. Alas, it's believability that is defied far more than death - but I admit, I was drolly amused at some of the ridiculous and hopeless situations that the characters found themselves in. I found myself thinking, "There's no WAY they can survive this! How will they get out of this predicament?" So, it wasn't exactly witless action, but it was relentless, and too long.
In all, "The Island" tackles some pretty serious themes that are emerging as modern science ethical dilemmas. There's a real science-fiction story at the center of "The Island" , one that makes a comment on serious contemporary issues. Unfortunately the commentary is basically Luddite in its conclusion, but along the way a good story gets told, with believable and likeable characters who get put in unbelievable but spectacular situations. If only Michael Bay's dominatrix had been a little more free with the whip, this might have been a truly great movie.
And I really, really want one of those jet-bikes. Traffic in LA would be totally cool with one of those jet-bikes.