Isle of Dogs (2018)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Akira Ito, Scarlett Johansson, Koyu Rankin
Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog.
Part of me was wary of wading into Wes’ Isle of Dogs and I’m not sure why. I knew it would be visually stunning but I think part of me was worried it would be all style and no substance. I was wrong thankfully and I’m so delighted about that.
I’ve come to understand that the world is split into two camps: Wes lovers and Wes haters with very few in between. I would consider myself the former although I didn’t rate Moonrise Kingdom that highly. I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel though with its intricate detail and eye-popping visual aesthetic. Now I can say Isle of Dogs is definitely up there as one of my favourites.
In a dystopian near-future Japan, dogs find themselves banished from the city when a virus spreads through the canine population. New mayor Kobayashi (Nomura) signs a decree that outlaws all puppies to Trash Island – and he sacrifices Spots (Liev Schreiber), the dog of his ward and orphaned nephew Atari Kobayashi (Rankin) first to set an example.
Scientist Professor Watanabe (Ito) insists he is just a mutt’s hair away from discovering a cure but the mayor is adamant that the poor doggos will remain on the island regardless. There’s some folklore at the beginning of the film that explains the drama between dog and cat lovers which I’ll leave to you to discover for yourselves.
Turns out though that Atari isn’t cool with this arrangement so he steals a light aeroplane and crashes onto the island, determined to find faithful old Spots. On the way he meets a group of pups who facilitate an epic adventure across the island – and joins the great dog rebellion. Will he find Spots, deliver the dog flu cure and save the lives of all the forgotten dogs before it is too late – or…?
You know what to do.
Isle of Dogs is so visually stimulating and is as subtly funny as Anderson films always are. The voice work is spot on and I’m happy to say that the film is not so whimsical as to set your teeth on edge. As with most of his films, the sugar-coated sheen often gives ways to darker themes and this is no different.
Highlights for me are Frances McDormand’s Interpreter, Gerwig’s American exchange student and Pro-Dog activist – and hands down Brian Cranston’s stray mutt Chief, who’ll break your heart and then stitch it back together again.
Get on it, even if you are a cat person – there’s something for everybody and honestly, this is cinematic magic.