Import This: The Island

Great movies come from all around the world, and so do great DVDs and Blu-rays. Import This! is an irregular feature here at FSR that highlights discs and/or movies unavailable in the US that are worth seeking out for fans of fantastic cinema. We’ll cover movies both foreign and domestic, new and old, and while some discs will require region-free players others will play on any DVD or Blu-ray machine. The one thing they’ll all have in common is their status as damn fine films and/or solid entertainment currently unavailable in the US but well worth importing into your collection.

The Island
Country of origin: US
Blu-ray Label: Warner Bros./UK
Blu-ray Region: all region

Okay, I know this one may be a hard-sell for most of you since the intro states this column is for “damn fine films and/or fantastic entertainment” but I honestly believe this movie belongs in that second category… it’s immensely entertaining, loads of fun, and a fantastic film to watch in high definition. But it’s yet to be released in the US on Blu-ray! I’m no Michael Bay fanboy (as my evisceration of Transformers 2 this past summer showed), but even I don’t understand the inexplicable hate shown towards this movie. I’d actually place it third in Bay’s bombastic oeuvre (behind The Rock and Bad Boys) and well ahead of the bloated excess and inanity of his remaining films. Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlet Johansson) live with hundreds of others in an enclosed society after an unspecified event has ravished the surface of the Earth. Only one outside area remains inhabitable (the titular island), and periodic lotteries determine which lucky members of the community will get to go to this paradise for their remaining days. Lincoln is full of questions though about the outside world, the oddly mandated diets and wardrobes, and what exactly happened to his left shoe. His curiosity leads him to Steve Buscemi and a shocking truth behind the island. Basically, it’s all one big lie…

The Island is Bay’s sixth film, and all of his trademarks are on display… multiple explosions of varying sizes, over-the-top set-pieces and chase scenes, and the inevitable upward camera angle that starts at the ankle and rises dramatically. The action here is top-notch including an incredible freeway chase featuring big rigs, souped-up Mustangs, and flying jet bikes. The performances are uniformly solid too with McGregor in particular doing a fine job moving between child-like innocence and a fully functioning individual interested in self-preservation. The biggest change from Bay’s previous movies can be found in the questions on ethics and morality raised throughout The Island. It never becomes heavy-handed and usually eschews deeper contemplation and discussion in favor of jokes, sharp visuals, and things going boom, but the issues and questions are still present and interesting. Fans of Logan’s Run and Clonus will recognize several familiar themes, but Bay’s inclusion of spectacular action and cutting-edge special effects make his film the superior entertainment.

One side note, and something I’ve often wondered about… the movie is written by Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci (those last two names should sound familiar), but there’s more than a passing resemblance to Michael Marshall Smith’s excellent novel Spares. Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks had optioned the rights to Smith’s book but apparently let the rights lapse before eventually producing The Island. Curious…

Blu-ray: Warner Bros. holds the European distribution rights for The Island (as opposed to it being a Dreamworks/WB release domestically), and they released the movie on Blu-ray in the UK back in 2008. Like many of WB’s releases, The Island is region-free and will play on any domestic Blu-ray player (although the Sony PS3 may take issue with the extras). The 1080p HD picture is absolutely beautiful and Johansson has never looked so good. Hell, Buscemi’s never looked better either. The disc’s extras are minimal and consist only of a short “making-of” featurette, but who gives a shite when the movie itself is this entertaining and looks so damn fine on Blu-ray.

- Buy The Island on Blu-ray from Amazon.UK


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