An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Buried inside all the contemporary hokum of “The Island” is a provocative premise:  the certainty that one day people who can afford it will have themselves cloned for spare parts to be used when they grow old or sick – a modern life insurance policy.  The master hand in this cloning movie reminds us “Everyone wants to live forever, it’s the new American dream.” 

After the rich and powerful of the world pay $5,000,000 each for manufactured clones, what is to be done with them until the hour of their owner’s need?  This movie’s solution:  keep them in isolation in a futuristic marvel of a building within the rigid behavioral parameters imposed by their manufacturers – until needed.  So far, so very good.

                By now we in the audience have begun to ask the big questions.  These cloned humans will be used eventually as spare parts.  How do we feel about that?  What about the role of greed in such a world?  The black market?   Cloning is a door about to open onto a vast landscape of cure for disease whether we like it or not, but the moviemakers seem to feel we aren’t up to thinking about the consequences of what they have suggested.  Just as director Michael Bay edges up to the moral complications of the issue, he takes an abrupt turn into an ordinary space/action movie – almost as if he went out for dinner and started over when he came home after a few drinks.  You’ll see two major themes here and the first is far more compelling than the second. 

In an atmosphere that is intended to be “polite, pleasant, and peaceful,” Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor with his wonderfully infectious smile) and Delta Two-Jordan (Scarlett Johansson without the pearl earring) wander about the sterile world of the cloning factory with vague stirrings of the memory and sex drive that were deliberately left out of the manufacturing process.  As Lincoln puts the pieces of the puzzle together, you will hear words like contamination, repopulation, survivor, and storage.

                After Lincoln finds answers and bolts with Delta, the movie hurtles into video game violence - the new dimension of the American car chase.  If it’s a car chase you want, there are some humdingers here.  We have been dumped suddenly from that beautiful factory and those universal questions into the reality of SWAT teams, cars, cops, copters and a Mack truck. 

At just the moment of a terrific ending, the movie seems to feel it has earned a victory lap and continues on its violent way for a cinematic eternity.  What began as a futurist drama ends as a conventional action inferno.  We are left to wonder about that third generation of clones, mentioned earlier on, who were infected with the germ of “human curiosity.”  But we aren’t quite ready for that grown-up question, are we?  Better for now that it all ends in a Hollywood fireball.


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