Michael Bay is the Devil. Apparently. He appears to be the most hated, sneered-at, slagged-off Director in Hollywood. No-one? got a good word to say for him. Perfectly-servicable modern action films like ARMAGEDDON and PEARL HARBOUR (well, I enjoyed it) are derided as the works of a drooling lunatic (or thereabouts). Trey Parker and Matt Stone gave him a right royal drubbing in TEAM AMERICA. In short, he? a bit of a joke. His latest balls-to-the-wall action adventure, THE ISLAND, has gone down like tablets of concentrated bird flu at the US Box office and it looks as if his career as an A list big-budget Director may be all but over. This baffles me ?as so many things do in today? multi-media entertainment industry ?because THE ISLAND is an enormously-enjoyable joyride of a movie, an SF film with a bit of a brain as well as all the usual bangs.

There? been a holocaust, you see, and the world is an irradiated wasteland. Human survivors are sealed inside an underground chamber ?an extremely dystopic Utopic society of enforced regimens, mundane routines and detached emotions ?where the only thing worth living for is the possibility of winning a huge lottery which guarantees the winner a life of freedom on ?he island? the last unspoiled natural paradise on Earth. Nice! But waitoll? not what it seems! One of these white-clad drones, the snappily-named Lincoln Six Echo (McGregor) is having bad dreams and he? starting to question this strange, sterile subterranean existence. His investigations lead him to discover the incredible truth; he and all his kind have been fed an enormous lie. They?e all just clones, bred and nurtured purely to provide replacement limbs and organs for their ?onorsh ?he island?doesn? exist ?the winners are simply ?arvested?and dissected when the donor needs some major life-saving surgery. None of the people in the chamber are real; they have no real memories, they have no experience of the outside world. They have nothing. Lincoln isn? too happy about this and he and the luscious Delta Two Zero (Johanssen, wasted in little more than a pouting pretty girl sidekick role) escape the compound before they, too, can be harvested. But the business brains behind the scam ?led by professional British bad guy Sean Bean ?aren? too happy about this turn of events and they?l stop at nothing to eliminate the pair before the public discovers the ghastly truth.

For its first forty or so minutes THE ISLAND is a grimly-realistic depiction of a post-Apocalypse society, all starched white uniforms and cold emotionlessness. It? almost disturbing and nothing if not intriguing. But this is a Michael bay film and there? an explosives budget to be spent ?so when Lincoln and Delta escape the compound, it? time for a few car chases, a bit of wanton city destruction and lots and lots of bangs and flashes. As always, this is lots of fun and beautifully staged ?particularly the freeway chase with the giant weights crashing down around pursuing cars. But it tends to tear at the film? own internal logic. If this compound and its dark doings are supposed to be secret, it? probably not incredibly wise to blow up half of Los Angeles and generally leave a trail of death and devastation in your wake in the pursuit of two frightened innocents. Coincidence follows coincidence and no plot-hole is left unplugged in the quest for a bit of loud excitement.

But despite the fact that THE ISLAND is very much a film of two halves ?part thoughtful sci-fi morality tale, part mindless shoot ?m up ?it? still immensely enjoyable and well put together. McGregor never looks at ease in these SF extravaganzas but he? a thousand times better here than his woeful, lifeless performances in the STAR WARS prequels and he? particularly good in the stunning sequences where he meets his alter ego, the real-world Tom Lincoln, a multi-millionaire hedonist whose liver is about to pack up. Other performers chew the scenery ?including the reliable Sean Bean ?and Steve Buscemi gives the movie a bit of indie respectability as the pair? only friend in the outside world.

THE ISLAND has done decent business in the UK and Europe so all is not lost. Michael Bay may well be the Anti-Christ as far as American cinema-goers are concerned but really, I?e seen a lot worse action films in the last few months. Always entertaining, sometimes thought-provoking (but only a bit), I? recommend a visit to THE ISLAND. And hey, you won? even need a passport!

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