The Island

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Michael Bay has exactly the reputation that he deserves, which is why I have always been so pleasantly surprised by The Island (2005). It’s not that The Island is anything more than Logan’s Run (1976) meets Minority Report (2002); it’s a matter of how well Bay’s often abrasive style is so well suited to the material. Perhaps it’s the science-fiction genre itself that makes all of Bay’s visual bombast more palatable since the suspension of disbelief is arguably so much greater than your average action film.

There’s also a little bit of nostalgia at work here, seeing Scarlett Johansson in 2005 and Ewan McGregor still in his Obi-Wan Kenobi phase. And don’t get me wrong, both actors do a lot of excellent work bringing life to characters that could easily have been totally devoid of any distinction. Sean Bean is in this as well, as the big corporate bad channeling his usual earnestness; employing his uncanny ability to sell any bonkers premise as something both feasible and truthful.

Looking back at The Island, a dystopian action flick set in 2019, from the 2020s it’s almost startling to realize what has changed about the genre and what hasn’t. For instance, in 2005 I would have bet that McGregor would be the one to helm a series of action pictures, not Johansson. There’s also the matter of how desperately The Island‘s very narrative premise clings to traditional binary gender roles which dates this film more so than even older films primarily because the two leads are still big stars.

This is the third Michael Bay film I have revisited in the last month. Reassessing what are commonly accepted as his “best” films I’d say that The Island comes in second place, or maybe even ties with, The Rock (1996). The Rock is an example of a highly stylized filmmaker flexing their muscles to prove themselves while The Island grounds those aesthetic flourishes more tangibly within a narrative world. Maybe in time The Island will eclipse Bay’s other films as his masterpiece, who knows?