DVD Review: The Island

The Island is a rare movie from action director Michael Bay. Instead of quickly setting up the story to give more time to the action, the story here is the constant focus. With its intriguing mystery, the entire Island experience succeeds as entertainment. Fans of Bay need not worry either; the action sequences are stunning achievements.

While not completely original, the bleak near-future world that make up the early parts of The Island are wonderfully rendered. The near total lack of color, strict rules, and mysterious happenings all follow Ewan McGregor's character Lincoln Six Echo. It's a fantastic, eerie, and well explained scenario. There are still questions when everything is exposed, but not enough to ruin what's about to happen to the characters.

With the morale parable that the film is trying to be, the intense, brutal, and stunning action sequences almost feel out of place. There was plenty of room here for at least another half hour of build up towards a non-stop finale. The mysteries of the story are that tightly constructed.

That shouldn't take anything away from the obvious effort that went into these action pieces. A freeway chase past the hour mark (however illogical) is such a spectacular sight, it fits right in. This is where you know it's a Michael Bay film. Toss in some trademark humor and Steve Buscemi for true confirmation of Bay's presence.

What takes away from the entire film are some nasty edits and impossible to follow camera shots. It's all an admirable attempt to capture the energy of the fights and quick movements, but all it does is make for confusing and impossible to follow scenes of peril. Of course, the camera manages to be still for the countless, aggravating, and forceful product placements.

Aside from some typical summer movie annoyances though, The Island gets it all right. Its interesting if not totally original premise is enough to make it an easy sell, and the $122 million budget shows. It's a recommendation for any sci-fi fan. (**** out of *****)

This is a stunning DVD transfer, one with plenty of potential for disaster. The nearly blinding color scheme should show off the grain and compression constantly. Amazingly, it's not to be found anywhere. Combined with the sharpness, detail, and overall clarity, this is a show-off piece for a new TV. There's not a single mishap to be found. (*****)

Audio is likewise strong, with forceful bass that never overpowers the rest of the happenings as the highlight. Surround work is aggressive, and any scene that has a chance to use it does so at every opportunity. This is a standard 5.1 mix that offers everything to the home theater fan. (*****)

To keep the compression minimal and audio at an insane level, extras have been cut. A solo Michael Bay commentary will be the highlight for many, while a 15-minute piece on the making of the film offers some repeat information. There is a section here on a broken camera that's with watching, but aside from that, there's a lot of information missing (like McGregor playing himself at the same time, an impressive feat of special effects). Given the poor box office performance, there's the off chance the studio will try to recoup their losses later with a special edition with some real extras. (**)

The Island was hardly the only the only special effects giant to fail financially in 2005. Stealth also bombed, and the sad thing is, The Island offered some solid material to work with. Here's hoping it can find an audience on DVD, and the less said about Stealth the better.

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