Rating: 5 out 5 (Classic)
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Koyu Rankin, Scarlett Johannson, Yoko Ono.
Synopsis: In near future Japan, virulent strains of dog based diseases cause Magaski city to ostracise its canines to a junk-heap island. Determined to get his dog back, Atari Kobayshi ventures to the island and discovers a conspiracy against man’s best friend.
Youth is a fleeting thing that should be cherished before it slips entirely. I am still young but I do not forlornly look back at childhood as the halcyon days of simpler joys and times. The world was uncertain then and is uncertain now, but my view clashes with a generation still clinging to Disney films. Against this context Isle of Dogs is the typical Wes Anderson work, full of pantomime whimsy, yet quietly and unexpectedly, the film made me feel like a child again.
Composed of stop animation throughout, the painstaking efforts of Wes Anderson, 3 Mills Studios and the modeller team converts Isle of Dogs into a labour of love. From the handcrafted backdrops to the bulbous eyes of the central group of dogs, the city of Magaski and trash island are exquisitely detailed. Superseded by computer graphics, the use of stop animation in Isle of Dogs imbues the tale with a forlorn exoticism, of witnessing a land both enticing and long passed. The choice of stop animation to depict a near future Japan speaks to the country’s reputation today; a land both advanced and steeped in the past. Adorned by clunky framed T.Vs, tape machines and giant computers, the retro-future vision of Isle of Dogs springs from a 1950’s comic. Anderson’s works have always been tinged with a nostalgia and in Isle of Dogs Anderson’s gaze looks back at the post war futurism full of hope and despair.
Written by a combined team of Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Kunichi Nomura, the plot for Isle of Dogs is impeccable. The films stands alongside The Grand Budapest Hotel as the films I consider to be Wes Anderson’s masterpieces. Full of innocent and often unintentional humour, Isle of Dogs builds on one of Anderson’s tropes, the outsider, to create a tale of exclusion, oppression and acceptance. The speaking of English between the dogs and Japanese for nearly everyone else subtly connects the viewer with the film’s literal underdogs. Anderson’s language choices also act as a smokescreen distracting mainstream audiences from what is a foreign language film.
Yet the best part of Isle of Dogs is its sense of adventure, of the wonder the world contains through the innocent eyes of young Atari (Koyu Rankin) and the dogs who join him. I really cannot remember the last time a film made me smile throughout. A large part of Isle of Dogs’ excellence stems from the impressive cast Anderson amassed for the film. The cast’s clear enjoyment of their work resonates in their performance. Highlights from the stellar roster are Bryan Cranston as lead dog Chief and Jeff Goldblum as Duke, or should I say Jeff Goldblum in dog form.
This is a film not to be missed.
By Saul Shimmin
For the trailer, see below: