In the future, an outbreak of canine flu leads the mayor of a Japanese city to banish all dogs to an island that’s a garbage dump. The outcasts must soon embark on an epic journey when a 12-year-old boy arrives on the island to find his beloved pet.
Well let me just come out and say it. Isle of Dogs is my first contender for movie of the year. Directed by Wes Anderson ( Grand Budapest Hotel, Rushmore) Isle of Dogs is a movie that just works on so many levels. First the film is beautifully captured in stop motion form and Bryan Cranston and Edward Norton lead a star studded cast that gives us sharp on point performances. The film has the look and feel of a Akira Kurosawa movie (think Seven Samurai, the Hidden Fortress) and Anderson says he was inspired to use the media of stop motion because of his love of Rankin/Bass productions (Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer). Every beat of Isle just works.
Isle has many layers. First it is just gorgeous to watch. There are scenes where the sun is in the horizon and the dogs are traveling across the Island and it is breathtaking. Next is the dead pan humor which Anderson weaves into the stop motion for perfect beats. Then there is the use of language in the film. Dogs speak English, the humans Japanese, and there are no subtitles, but through the use of creative interpreters it just works seamlessly. The political message itself is layered. The trash island is a commentary on excesses and the pollution of our world. There is the idea that all the dogs are rounded up and put on an island which when considering the U.S.’s treatment of the Japanese people during WWII was not so dissimilar. There is also a political commentary on the government with the mayor representing an imposing totalitarian society.
However what makes this movie work is the heart of the story about a boy whose love for his dog pushes him to overcome his situation. The subplot of chief, a stray who bites, tugs at the heart-strings as Atari the little boy shows him love and literally washes his facade away…
There are no overt references to faith in Isle of Dogs. There is however general themes of love, respect, honor, resilience and faith in each other that are all themes of the Christian life.
Isle of Dogs is simply a masterpiece. This movie is a must see.
5 stars out of 5.
You can listen to my weekly movie podcast here.