Survival in the time of simulation


No desire is as strong as our need to survive. This instinct propels Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) out of their artificial lives and into reality in the sci-fi thriller, ‘The Island’. Director Michael Bay’s look at our near future is in turns, entertaining, exciting, and thought provoking.

In 2019, people live in a simulated environment so they don’t become contaminated by the outside world. Everything about their lives is controlled — their sleep, food, exercise and even

social contact. There are few friends and no romances; families are restricted to the distant memories of childhood. There is a regular lottery to determine who gets to leave this monotony and go to an island paradise — “nature’s last remaining pathogen free zone.” Lincoln is not satisfied with this regimented existence and seeks answers. The same day that Jordan wins the lottery, Lincoln follows a flying bug outside. If the Earth is not contaminated, why do they live the way they do?

The story of ‘The Island’ is similar to most sci-fi thrillers, and the necessary plot twists are not surprises. The action sequences are exciting, and the romance is touchingly believable. However, what sets this movie apart from others is the details. Great care has been taken to craft this futuristic universe, and Lincoln’s life seems like a real world we could step into. In most movies, this believability would fall apart as soon as they reach the surface, but this reality seems more authentic when pitted against the outside world. There are a few obvious fish-out-of-water gags, but they are done with such a light hand that they don’t mock the characters but draw us further into them.

With each successive scene that they are together, the chemistry between McGregor and Johansson becomes more obvious, and the romance between their characters radiates. Lincoln and Jordan could have easily become cookie-cutter heroes, but they were written and acted with depth. Jordan is more naïve and trusting than Lincoln, and at times, this leaves Johansson little to do with the character. Despite these occasional lapses she manages to keep the character alive.

Steve Buscemi and Djimon Hounsou should also be noted for their inspired supporting roles. Buscemi’s blue-collar worker is naturally comical and Hounsou’s hired gun communicates quiet dignity with his expressive face.

Dr Merrick (Sean Bean)

loses his believability towards the end. Bean tries valiantly, but fails to keep him from turning into a caricature of Dr Faustus. There is a strong social comment in this movie, as with most futuristic films, but it does not take away from the fast pace of the plot or interest in the characters. ‘The Island’ is a thrilling and thoughtful look at the future that makes ‘War of the Worlds’ suddenly look its 107 years. (‘The Island,’ Genre: Science Fiction, Cast: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, Director: Michael Bay, Writer: Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Showing at Kumari Hall)