The Island (1980)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.   

USA, 1980Universal Pictures, Zanuck/Brown Productions.  Screenplay by Peter Benchley, based on his novel.  Cinematography by Henri Decae.  Produced by David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck.  Music by Ennio Morricone.   Production Design by Dale Hennesy.  Costume Design by Ann Roth.  Film Editing by Richard A. Harris.

Being held captive on an uncharted island with a bunch of disgusting murderous pirates sounds terrible, but it might be better than sitting through this film.  Michael Caine is terrific as a journalist who fails regularly at making his son a priority, taking him on trips that he pretends are meant for quality time but are actually him chasing a good story.  He drags the boy to Florida with the lure of taking him to Disney World,  in reality to investigate the mysterious disappearance of luxury yachts in the Caribbean Sea, which some believe are being lost in the famed dangerous waters of the Bermuda Triangle.  Flying to the Keys and barely surviving a plane crash, the pair are in deep trouble when a group of pirates who have remained unknown and isolated for years kidnap them and take them to their own secret kingdom.  Caine is made a captive who needs to figure his way out of this potentially deadly experience while his sharp-shooting son, enjoying the opportunity to get revenge on his deadbeat dad, accepts the group’s turning him into their little prince and happily takes up their marauding ways.  This adaptation of the novel by Peter Benchley, the last made for the big screen to date, is a combination of elements that should work, particularly the cast and the exotic location (photographed by the legendary Henri Decae), but enduring it is impossible, a shallow and rambling trek through the usual hostage plot with little in the way of character development or tension.  Director Michael Ritchie is thoroughly confused as to whether he’s making a film for adults or children, there’s an inexplicably rousing score by Ennio Morricone that suggests you’re watching something in the vein of Pippi Longstocking, but the very gory violence (chopped limbs, massacre by assault rifle, and a kid shooting at his dad) makes it highly inadvisable to show the very young.

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