The Island

This futuristic thriller deals with a colony of survivors who live in an enclosed environment after a deadly virus has contaniminated the earth. One of these survivors is Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor), who is getting fed up with his orderly existence and starts to question why he is remembering certain events from his past. He also wants to know the secret of ‘The Lottery’, in which certain residents are chosen to travel to a tropical island. The person in charge of the band of survivors is a scientist, Merrick (Sean Bean), who has his own agenda from keeping secrets from them. One day Lincoln discovers a deadly secret about the island and tries to save the life of a friend, Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson). What follows is a story of double cross and deception, as the two survivors discover that all is not what it seems, and that they have to fight for their very existence.The director of this, Michael Bay, is no stranger to big budget action fests. His previous films includes ‘The Rock’, ‘Armageddon’, ‘Bad Boys’, and ‘Pearl Harbor’. His films have hardly been high art, but they always delivered on spectacle - and he doesn’t disappoint with this film either. ‘The Island’ is a slightly more intelligent film than usual for him to direct, although once the main story is set up and going, he then reverts to form and brings on the massive explosions. If the pace of the story begins to sag, then it’s a case of ‘blow something up’.

Ewan McGregor does his usual fine job as a man who thinks who knows who he is, but then discovers his identity is not what it appeared to be. McGregor makes a fine action hero, but gives a better performance in the ’slow’ sections of the film. He appears to be more comfortable in these scenes than in the big action ones. Scarlett Johansson is quite good in her first action role, and gives her role a subtle charm amid all the chaos that follows. Sean Bean makes an arresting villain and chews the scenery as only he can. Steve Buscemi turns up as a worker in the colony, and gives his usual hammy performance. The rest of the cast do what they can with the material, but once the explosions start, the body count goes up and the quality of the performances goes down!

Mention must be made of the production design of the film, which is fantastic. Most of the costumes that the survivors wear are all white, which goes with the white decor in the place they live in. This gives the film a very stark look - although it must be said, it does add to the cliché that is found in most sci fi films that the future is either bright or a dark grungy place. The story in the film is quite interesting, with a few surprises, but once the explosions start, plot and pacing go out the window, and it essentially becomes a very long chase film. In the hands of a better director, this could have been quite an intelligent film. As it is, this is basically a popcorn entertainment movie for undiscriminating types.

Rating out of 10: 5

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Sin City

This film features 3 interconnecting stories set in Basin City or ‘Sin City’ as the locals call it. The first story tells of a retiring cop (Bruce Willis), who is trying to protect an innocent girl (Jessica Alba) from the psychotic son of one of the most powerful men in the city. Story two tells of a bouncer, Marv (Mickey Rourke), who wakes up one morning with his girlfriend dead next to him. He then makes it his mission to track down the killer, who happens to be mute assassin, as played by Elijah Wood. The third story shows Dwight, (Clive Owen), a private detective trying to protect his girlfriend from crooked cops and various gangsters. He then teams up with a group of ‘ladies of the night’ to take down the villains and protect their turf.Sin City is based on a cult comic book created by Frank Miller, who came to fame with the Daredevil comics in the 1970s. The stories for ‘Sin City’ are told in a tough uncompromising style, which reveal the dark underbelly of life in this city. Robert Rodriguez is the director of this, although Quentin Tarantino gets a ‘Co - Directors’ credit as well. Rodriguez has made some excellent films in his career, such as the ‘El Mariachi’ trilogy, the ‘Spy Kids’ films, and ‘The Faculty’. Once again, Rodriguez displays his unique visual flair and makes the story move at a cracking pace. He has shot the film almost entirely in stark black and white, only using colour when needed to add more intensity to a scene. The film feels like it was directly lifted from the comics, as almost each frame is shot like a comic book page.

The cast assembled for this are veterans of previous Rodriguez films, plus some new faces. Bruce Willis gives an excellent performance as the hard bitten cop who tries to stay clean of corruption and actually enforce the law properly. Jessica Alba infuses her part with innocence and grace, which is crucial for her role. Mickey Rourke is almost unrecognisable as Marv, wearing a ton of make up, but giving the role a driving energy as he tries to bring the killers to justice. Elijah Wood is very creepy as the mute assassin, making him very unpredictable and deadly. Clive Owen manages to capture the spirit of pulp detectives from classic films and makes his role as the world weary PI a good one. The rest of the cast includes Josh Harnett, Brittany Murphy, Bennicio Del Toro, and Nick Stahl, who are all good in their parts.

This is at times a very tough, violent and gritty film, with interlocking stories which moves the timeframe around to add impact. For example, one character may die in the first half of the film, but turn up alive in the second half. At times, the story does meander a bit, and seems to lose it’s momentum towards the end. The best ones in the film are Bruce Willis and Clive Owen, who seem to fit in perfectly with the film noir style.

Not quite as good as previous Robert Rodriguez films, although definitely one worth catching for the visual style, which has been rarely seen before. ‘Sin City’ brings to life a comic book in a unique and interesting way.

Rating out of 10: 7 and a half

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