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Lincoln Six-Echo is a resident of a seemingly utopian but contained facility in the mid-21st century. Like all of the inhabitants of this carefully controlled environment, Lincoln hopes to be chosen to go to the "The Island" — reportedly the last uncontaminated spot on the planet — until he makes a terrible discovery that everything about his existence is a lie and that he is actually more valuable dead than alive. Together with a beautiful fellow resident named Jordan Two-Delta, Lincoln makes a daring escape to the outside world he's never known. Now, with the forces of the institute that once housed them relentlessly hunting them down, Lincoln and Jordan engage in a desperate race for their lives.
For more about The Island and the The Island Blu-ray release, see the The Island Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 18, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, Djimon Hounsou, Michael Clarke Duncan
Director: Michael Bay
» See full cast & crew
The Island Blu-ray Review
Bay's most unique and evenhanded film earns a healthy Blu-ray release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 18, 2011
You have a very special purpose in life.
Shades of Logan's Run greet audiences as they are introduced to Michael Bay's fast-forward, not-so-utopian glimpse into the future of science, humanity, and ethics in The Island, a rare creature in cinema that's as much a thinking man's Adventure picture as it is a raw Action spectacle. The Island is indeed a tale of two pictures, its first half an engaging mystery that delves deeply into the very orderly and very unordinary lives of the citizens of a metaphorical "bubble" in which they sterilely exist, while the second half plays as a more traditional Action vehicle that hints at the sorts of death-defying, high-octane sights and sounds that would stylistically greatly influence Bay's then-upcoming Transformers pictures. The Island isn't very unique, nor does it raise any new metaphysical concerns, nor is its action the best around, but where it does excel is as a picture that's oh-so-finely balanced, more so than most others of this sort, the picture giving equal play to both the thematic drama and the out-and-out action alike and by extension rising to the upper crust thanks to as much smarts as slickness and as much drama as violence. It's not a perfect movie -- it's a bit overlong, the story is not completely fleshed out, and the action at times overshadows, but never overwhelms, the more thoughtful elements -- but it's a lot of fun and manages to deliver a heavy message that speaks firmly on the current and possible near-future state of human, technological, spiritual, and ethical interconnections without losing its core Summer movie audience along the way.
In the not-so-distant future, the world has been contaminated and rendered unlivable, or so some have been told. "Survivors" have been transported to a sterile state-of-the-art facility where they may live without worry of death by pathogen, but such a life comes with a price. Their freedoms are limited, their diets are restricted, their every activity is closely monitored, their clothes are bland, they are indoctrinated with propaganda, and more than casual interpersonal relationships are strongly discouraged. They work hard but to what end remains a mystery, and their only comfort lies in the lottery, an opportunity for one of their own to be chosen to leave the white-and-gray confines of the closed-off prison and live on a beautiful tropical island said to be the last place on Earth capable of sustaining life. Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) is one of the "inmates" at the facility, and unlike most of his companions, he openly questions his existence within the cold walls. He dares to exist outside the rules, question their worth, exude a personality, and dream of his freedom. Of course, his resilience is met with forced visits to the local shrink (Sean Bean) who sees in Lincoln a potential problem but a man who can likely be easily tamed. Just as one of his close friends inside the facility -- Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) -- is awarded the island getaway, Lincoln comes to learn that the lies spread far deeper and wider than he could have possibly imagined. Is there a living world outside the facility? What is the truth behind the journey to the island, and to what end do the residents truly exist? He and Jordan conduct a daring escape, but they are sure to be emotionally unprepared for the realities that await them in the outside world.
Director Michael Bay, known for his quick-to-cut edits, ever-moving camera, and slick action pieces delivers his most balanced film in The Island. While he reverts to norm in the second half, he proves a capable dramatic director in the film's first, demonstrating a proficiency at story building and theme integration, neither of which have really been called for in his previous and subsequent efforts that are all action, all the time with the plot serving as only the means to advance the film from one action extravaganza to the next. From the plot-driven first half he constructs a slow but steady and mostly enthralling buildup to what is an almost nonstop display of technical amazement in the film's second half. The Island's action scenes manage to yield death-defying entertainment without being surrounded by dumbed-down supportive elements and halfhearted, crude, or otherwise ineffective Comedy. The more serious tone gives the action greater heft, and while Michael Bay goes into, well, full-blown Michael Bay mode for each of the impressively incessant action pieces, they feel far more contextually honest than they do in any of his other films, surpassing even The Rock in that regard. Bay's cast proves up to the physical challenge, with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson demonstrating great ability to both go with the action's flow and balance the need to perform under the rigors of Bay's action-oriented lens while maintaining their keen understanding of the greater psychological challenges the characters endure over the course of the movie. With The Island, Bay has proven that he can handle Action movies that move to a beat other than the rapid pulse of his unique cinematic visions, and because there's more of a prominent, important, and thought-provoking tale advancing the action than is the Michael Bay norm, the film stands out as a unique entity in that its dramatic elements actually far surpass the visual spectacle aspects, elevating the picture to a height all its own.
Indeed, the best part of The Island comes from the story itself. It's certainly nice to find in the movie that somewhat rare cinematic creature that is a structure that allows action to develop from the story rather than vice versa, but The Island goes a step further and incorporates a timely message and analysis on what it means to be human. Without spoiling the film's major revelation, suffice it to say that the very essence of what makes a man an individual -- a being that's not only sentient but unique and perhaps even constructed around the contents of a spiritual center, or a soul -- is at the core. The picture is accessibly thought-provoking in that it doesn't necessarily dumb down its plot but it does present the story in such a way so as to make it infinitely more concise and Action-movie appropriate compared to how the same material might have played out in a more straight dramatic sort of picture. The film also examines a future where humanity has bent, and arguably broken, the very moral fibers that have allowed the species to grow and thrive over the years, but in the name of personal security and advancement rather than the betterment of all. It's a society where the freedoms of some have been sacrificed for the well-being of others, but done so along a razor-sharp edge where one can perhaps not easily, but certainly at least effectively and perhaps even ethically and to a lesser extent spiritually, defend a position that places people in a de facto form of slavery where even limited freedoms, privacy, and information have all been eradicated, creating a specific populace that's lied to and controlled rather than presented with the opportunity for full self-exploration, personal fulfillment, and choice. The picture is actually terrifyingly dark in its depiction of the eradication of freedom for the benefit of an elite few; it's certainly a far more overt form of "control" and sanctioned disinformation than exists in today's modern society, but one can easily see through the rapid growth of technology and the deterioration of moral fibers and human decency the growth of such a class of peoples in the not-so-distant future.
The Island Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Island makes its Blu-ray debut with a very high quality, though not quite perfect, 1080p transfer. Generally, the image appears as extraordinarily crisp with generous detailing and gorgeous colors. Though much of the film takes place in the cold, sterile, white and gray-dominated interiors of the facility, it offers a splendid array of hues -- from harsh desert landscapes to brightly-accented city venues -- that are neither too hot nor too dim but perfectly replicated in high definition. Fine detailing a strength, too; though Scarlett Johansson occasionally looks like a piece of plastic rather than a human being, the vast majority of facial textures are naturally rough and revealing. Clothing textures and general accents around the frame, whether, again, in the very-plain facility, around the scruffier and arid desert landscapes, or the polished city locales, are all top-notch. The image retains a layer of film grain that accentuates the positives of the fine detailing, though there are occasions where the image appears a bit too unnaturally sharp. Other maladies include slightly warm flesh tones, a few blocky backgrounds, and just a hint of aliasing in select backdrops. Its minute deficiencies aside, this is a very high quality release from Paramount. It's not quite in the same league as other releases of a similar vintage -- think War of the Worlds and Minority Report -- but The Island certainly holds its own, and then some.
The Island Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Paramount cranks out a deliciously full and exhilarating DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack for the The Island's inaugural Blu-ray release. This is a pleasantly full-bodied track that's cinematically big, hearty, effective, and deep, rounded into form thanks to wonderful clarity and seamless spacing across all channels. Music is vigorous in delivery but remains sturdily accurate and robustly clear. The low end can be a little shaky and unkempt, but such is life for many a high-octane action picture. The surround channels carry plenty of information, both music and sound effects. Light ambience of all forms -- blowing steam, dripping water, the churning of heavy machinery -- add some realistic flavor to the track, but the surrounds really kick in for the delivery of heftier, action-specific effects, whether motorcycles revving and zipping through the listening area or bullets impacting various surfaces situated all over the soundstage. Gunshots are hearty, crisp, and dangerous, and explosions pack a nicely potent wallop. Dialogue is balanced and grounded in the center speaker, always intelligible and never straying save for those few moments where light reverberations create a more realistic experience. The Island doesn't quite achieve sonic perfection, but this is easily an upper-tier soundtrack and the perfect accompaniment to a Michael Bay film.
The Island Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Island arrives on Blu-ray with a tidy assortment of extras, headlined by a director's commentary track.
The Island Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Island expertly walks the fine line between "meaningful" and "entertaining." This is probably Michael Bay's best all-around effort; sure The Rock might best it as a pure Action film and Transformers might beat it out as a pure spectacle of special effects, but considering every angle -- story, themes, and integrated action -- The Island is a tough film to top either out in the wild or on Michael Bay's ever-growing resumé. Like the best of Science Fiction, its future storyline hauntingly rings as plausibly true both today and in the near future, and it's accentuated by incredible action pieces that only Michael Bay can achieve. Despite a few flaws -- it's overlong, primarily -- The Island holds up not as a treasure of cinema or anything of the sort, but as a commendable all-around effort that's sure to withstand the test of time. Paramount's Blu-ray release of The Island features strong technical presentations and a handful of extras. Recommended.
The Island: Other Editions
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The Island Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray - June 21-27 - June 21, 2011
Marketing can make or break a file, and in some cases, change the way a film is initially perceived. Such is the case with today's Blu-ray release of The Adjustment Bureau, where a post-Inception landscape forced marketers to focus on the entire "reality isn't ...
• The Island Blu-ray Announced - April 5, 2011
Paramount Home Entertainment have announced that they will release Michael Bay's The Island on Blu-ray on June 21. Currently, the film is available on Blu-ray only in Europe, courtesy of Warner Brothers.
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