Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton
Director: Wes Anderson
Running Time: 101 mins
Isle Of Dogs is an American film about a city in near future Japan where all dogs have been exiled to an offshore colony after an outbreak of flu, but one young boy bravely ventures to the wasteland to search for his lost pet.
I’m sure you’ll be familiar with Wes Anderson’s signature style by now, with all his quirky and deadpan humour and memorable visual style, but Isle Of Dogs represents something a little different. Although this is still undoubtedly a Wes Anderson movie through and through, complete with fantastically bizarre comedy and pristine cinematography, there’s something a little darker bubbling under the surface, a darkness that makes Isle Of Dogs a particularly striking watch, even if it still isn’t the director’s most hilarious piece of work.
From his very first film, Anderson has been unapologetically quirky at every moment, boldly carrying out his unique and bizarre cinematic style in each of his pictures ever since, a characteristic that has won him widespread plaudits and praise beyond most other contemporary directors, and Isle Of Dogs continues that trend, only going further as Anderson cements a strikingly quirky yet still dramatically intriguing atmosphere throughout.
Above all, what’s most striking about this film is just how dark it appears. Yes, the film is still a fun comedy, and the typical deadpan humour combined with the oddness of talking dogs is a great source for laughs, but there is actually a sense of darkness and bleakness that often overpowers the film’s comedic elements, emanating not only from the dystopian nature of the story, but also the film’s truly stunning visuals.
Normally, Wes Anderson films use that signature flat, straight-ahead medium shot to create a cute and quirky vibe, with characters placed neatly at the centre of a frame surrounded by a quaint backdrop. In the case of Isle Of Dogs, however, the same visual technique is used to reinforce an atmosphere of bleakness, with the heavily ragged dogs sat in the middle of shot, uncomfortably close to the camera, and with nothing more than a dull, empty backdrop behind them.
It’s a simple yet extremely effective technique that’s an absolute delight to see throughout, and works wonders in establishing the film’s boldly bleak atmosphere, all the while featuring a somewhat ironic sense of darkness that is further key to the film’s entertainment.
You see, as seriously as I’m taking Anderson’s visual techniques and dark atmosphere, this film is still a comedy at heart. What Anderson does brilliantly, however, is establish an atmosphere, story and collection of characters that look, talk and act incredibly seriously, leading you into an odd state of mind where the comedy of the whole situation is massively contrasted by that serious vibe. Again, it’s a quirky and unique vibe that only Wes Anderson could really bring about, but it makes for a really entertaining watch throughout, and a series of strange yet hilarious laughs from beginning to end.
In truth, however, if there is one thing that I felt a little disappointed by with Isle Of Dogs is that it wasn’t as out-and-out hilarious as what Wes Anderson is most capable of. It’s clear that the film is meant to instil different emotions within you, beyond being a simple comedy, but there are times when attempted humour does fall flat on its face in ways that I haven’t seen before in a Wes Anderson film.
In general, Isle Of Dogs is a very funny and charismatic film, but I guarantee that if you go in looking for quirky laughs more than anything else, in the same vein as the likes of Fantastic Mr. Fox, then you’ll be a little disappointed.
Fortunately, there’s more to this movie than just laughs, and its striking and unique atmosphere, brilliantly created by stunning visuals, engrossing characters and an intriguing plot, all make for an enthralling watch from beginning to end, and that’s why I’m giving Isle Of Dogs a 7.8 overall.