Notable Cast: Huang Bo, Shu Qi, Wang Baoqiang, Zhang Yixing, Yu Hewei, Wang Xun, Li Qinqin, Lee You-Lin, Teddy Chan
One of the stranger aspects of reviewing foreign cinema is that, as a regular consumer, a lot of the marketing and hype build for certain films may never reach over here. Outside of following some of the actors involved in this film, The Island, it was a film that generally never crossed into the areas of information that I frequent. Once Well Go USA announced the intention of releasing the film in limited theaters in the US, some marketing hit over here, but even then, it was rather minimal compared to some of the Asian titles that pop up in theaters. Expectations for the film were rather open for me as I sat down to finally see the film that was dominating the box office in China. To my surprise, not only did The Island work for me on both a dramatic and comedic level, but it took a surprisingly hard angle with the thematic and emotional lens of how people live their lives. Featuring some impressively ranged performances and a knack for sly comedic timing in a wholly heavy and dramatic film, The Island feels far more connected with its audience and intentions than the titular setting would indicate. It’s a film that works as well on an entertaining cinematic level as it does with its character and emotional throughways to create an impressive hodge podge of laughs and tears. The Island is certainly a cinematic delight that ought not to be overlooked this year.
|This man called island.|
Granted, The Island tries to pile on quite a bit of material plot wise and this can be problematic. Not only is the film trying to tell the story of a man who is attempting to figure out what is important in life by being thrown into a drastic situation like surviving on an island with some very strange people, but it attempts to have a plethora of different social messages on top of it and try to pull it off while adding in a clutch romantic sub-plot to drive home most of the emotional moments. The film manages to execute it in the most important places, including a fantastic third act that does end on a slightly odd note, but there are large stretches of the film that inherently drag on too long. A large portion of the second act is dedicated to creating a rift in the people on The Island as the bus driver (played with the usual charming and screen devouring style of Wang Baoqiang) takes charge of keeping the people alive, but power goes to his head and he ends up on opposite ends of the manipulative and sly boss. The survivalist versus hierarchical personalities make for some fun moments and a fun theme, but it drags on far too long and doesn’t quite add to the power and main themes of the film. Truthfully, it’s perhaps the biggest issue that The Island runs into and it’s ultimately more of a nit-picky writing issue than anything else.
The biggest surprise though comes in the form of the visual and cinematic quality of the film. I love Chinese cinema, but the industry is not known for producing blockbuster content that isn’t eye-rolling cheesy with far too much reliance on sub-standard CGI and broad genre swaths. In a way, this film feels far more akin to the South Korean content that makes its way over to North American than it does with other Chinese films of this ilk. The Island is just impressively executed. The performances, the visuals, the content, and the effective heart of the film all just feel like it’s above the usual material. If anything, that’s the biggest and best surprise that The Island offers.
|Team work makes the dream work. Right?|