"The Island" runs 136 minutes, but that's not long for a double feature. The first half of Michael Bay's new film is a spare, creepy science fiction parable, and then it shifts into a high-tech action picture. Both halves work. Whether they work together is a good question. The more you like one, the less you may like the other. I liked them both, up to a point, but the movie seemed a little too much like surf & turf.
The first half takes place in a sterile futuristic environment where the inhabitants wear identical uniforms (white for the citizens, black for their supervisors). Big-screen TVs broadcast slogans and instructions, and about twice a day everybody gathers before them for the Lottery. This sealed world, its citizens believe, has been created to protect them from pollution that has poisoned the Earth. There is, however, one remaining "pathogen-free zone," which looks a lot like a TV commercial for "The Beach." Winners of the Lottery get to go there.
Yeah, sure, we're thinking. But the citizens in the white suits don't think very deeply; "they're educated to the level of 15-year-olds," we're told. There was a time when that would have made them smarter than most of the people who ever lived, but in this future world education has continued to degrade, and we see adults reading aloud from Fun With Dick and Jane, a book that on first reading I found redundant and lacking in irony.
The true nature of this sealed world is not terrifically hard to guess; even those who failed to see through "The Village" may decode its secret. But the inhabitants are childlike and blissful, all except for a few troublesome characters like Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor), who wants bacon for breakfast but is given oatmeal. This inspires him to develop what all closed systems fear, a curiosity. "Why is Tuesday night always tofu night?" he asks his supervisor. "What is tofu? Why can't I have bacon? Why is everything white?" Then one day he sees a flying bug, where no bug should be, or fly.