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ENTERTAINMENT

Review: 'Island' just interesting enough

Movie's holes somewhat filled by acting

By Paul Clinton
For CNN.com

Editor's Note: The following movie review may contain spoilers. If you'd prefer not to know anything, stop reading now.

Island
Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson in "The Island."

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Review
Michael Bay
Scarlett Johansson
Ewan McGregor

(CNN) -- Love him or hate him -- there doesn't seem to be any middle ground -- Michael Bay's movies make big bucks. Even the nearly unwatchable "Pearl Harbor" made $198 million dollars. Action junkies, i.e. adolescent boys (Hollywood's favorite demographic), swarm to his films.

"The Island" contains all of Bay's trademarks -- a total disregard for the laws of physics, over-the-top chase scenes, and lots of circular panning shots.

But unlike his other films, "The Island" also has an interesting story, penned by Caspian Tredwell-Owen (with script credit also going to Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) and two very good actors -- Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson -- playing the leading characters.

This is the first Michael Bay film I've actually enjoyed. But that's not saying much.

Set in an undetermined near future, the first half-hour of the film takes place in a monochromatic, futuristic setting where hundreds of people are controlled by a man named Merrick (Sean Bean). He's told them all that they are survivors of some type of event that has contaminated the entire planet.

Occasionally a lottery is held and one lucky person gets to go to "the island," a tropical paradise which is supposedly the only safe place left on earth. Everyone's goal is to get there.

McGregor plays a character named Lincoln Six-Echo, who has befriended Jordan Two-Delta, played by Johansson. When Jordan is picked to go to the island, Lincoln suddenly discovers that their entire existence is a hoax.

Big guns

Yes, he, Jordan and nearly everyone around them are clones, which are made by Merrick's company for people in "the real world." Basically they're being used as spare parts for extremely wealthy people. When they're called to the island, they're really being sliced and diced like a stolen car in a chop shop.

story.buscemi.jpg
Steve Buscemi plays a man who befriends McGregor's character.

With the help from McCord, a human working at the facility (played by the always good Steve Buscemi), Lincoln and Jordan make a death-defying (is there any other kind in a movie like this?) escape into the real world and Bay brings out his big guns.

From this point on it's pure Bay -- action, action, action. At one point Jordan survives a 70-story fall without a scratch. That's a lot of disbelief to suspend.

However, the story still has some surprises left, and Johansson and McGregor have good romantic chemistry. They're both such good actors they somehow make the unbelievable in "The Island" believable -- to an extent, anyway.

"The Island" isn't the best sci-fi thriller out there this summer -- "War of the Worlds" wins by miles -- but it's enjoyable. You just have to take all of Bay's excess with a grain ... oh, let's make that a pound of salt. After all, he doesn't really make movies, he makes roller coaster rides. So, if you're in the mood, "The Island" is just worth the trip.

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