Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson
Director: Wes Anderson
When a dogs are infected with a virus in Japan, they are exiled to an island and must survive in their own. But Atari, the ward of the mayor of Japan, wants his dog Spots back, and will stop at nothing to rescue his canine friend. But the Mayor has a secret, one that Atari’s mission might uncover, and he plans to stop his ward at any cost.
Wes Anderson films are a delightful mix of nostalgia and social satire. They are subtle and beautiful, heartfelt and funny. They always have a lot of layers and demand repeat viewings, and the visuals always feel very controlled and planned. Personally, I really enjoy them, but some people find them too enigmatic, unsure whether it’s all a comedy or a serious drama. Perhaps they are both and neither.
Though this film is an animation, and one with animals at that, this film would have made me cry when I was a kid. There are some dark moments and themes that younger kids might find upsetting. It also has some more subtle things going on that might pass over a child’s head. In a lot of ways, it’s an animal animation for adults, or at least older children or teens. But it’s not bleak or too dark.
The film sets are dark and urban, gritty, and the stop motion plays out in front of it. It has the feel of a puppet show, slightly flat. When we are on the island, it’s a range of landscapes made of rubbish and abandoned places. When we are in the city, we see a political landscape of speeches and suits in front of lecturns, scientists at work, and also backdrops of Japanese artworks, largely featuring cats. One has an elegance and organisation to it, the other is crumbling and messy. But both landscapes are dog-eat-dog worlds.
Language is used nicely. Since it’s the dogs story, they speak English, but the majority of the human characters speak Japanese. Which means that when Atari reaches the Isle of Dogs, they can’t understand him. What’s going on is a mystery to them, from why they have been thrown away to why Atari is there, at least initially. We also have a translator and a foreign exchange student, which means that there is no confusion about story, but it’s a nice touch. Like the dogs, we have to piece things together over the film, we are outsiders with a language barrier, aligned with our protagonists.
The cast for this film is amazing, some Wes Anderson regulars like Bill Murray are here, but so is Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johannson, and loads more. They do a wonderful job of delivering Wes Andersons dry humour and heart, as well as the being the eccentric but relatable characters he’s known for. The film is sweet and funny, with delightful little moments but it doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of the situation. It’s an entertaining film, one that fits beautifully into the list of Wes Anderson’s films, but is original and thought provoking too.
See It If: you would go to any lengths to rescue your four legged friend. Funny and intelligent, this film contains all the things we’ve come to love from Wes Anderson. Enjoy.