Isle of Dogs is a Wes Anderson movie. Need I say more?
If you know who that guy is, then you know he’s in a league of his own. How many other directors have A-lister actors queuing around the block to work with him, whilst being so unique, quirky and almost a genre of his own?
This time Wes has gone back to stop motion animation after his hit Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) to tell another leftfield story that is far more character-driven than plot reliant.
In not-to-distant future Japan, after it is revealed that ‘dog flu’ is spreading like lice, a corrupt dog-hating mayor banishes all canines to a trash heap island to live out their days, and eradicate their existence for good. This loose thread is the core of the whole film and it delivers a charming and endearing story of friendship and trust, with an often hinted at allegory about today’s society wrapped up in there, too.
Five Alpha dogs, all voiced by fve alpha males (Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray and Bob Balaban) happen upon a young pilot named Atari who has crashed-landed his plane on the Isle.
He is the first human to ever try reclaiming their pet and this triggers the instinctive loyalty of the pack to help him out. All except for the one stray – Chief, who’ll need a few scenes before he comes around. Together they endeavour to find ‘Spots’, but Atari isn’t your everyday human…
The execution of this movie is essentially flawless. Wes Anderson is a mastermind of detail in the mise en scene. All set dressing, costume, and framing – everything is so polished and considered that I often stop paying attention to the film just to take in the atmosphere.
And when you have epic Taiko drums as your soundtrack building tension, setting the tone and pumping you with the right feels at the right time, whether this is your style of movie or not becomes irrelevant – you have to give credit where credit is due.
You have to appreciate the commitment to the setting, the fantastic scenes in Japanese, the art style of the animals compared to the humans, compared to the city compared to what we see on their TV screens and this peculiar oddity of Wes Anderson chucking everything at you and making it work like an absurd jigsaw puzzle with too many sky pieces.
There’s nothing more I can say beyond what I said when the credits rolled: ‘Man, that was so Wes Anderson’, which is never a bad thing.
He is the freshest director (and writer) in an age, his films have a voice and, yes he does have a very formulaic structure of all his movies, often revolving around parental issues, but one could never say that The Royal Tenenbaums is the same as Moonrise Kingdom, which is the same as anything else on the repertoire.
Film is a recipe which Wes Anderson has perfected – and I can’t wait for whatever he serves up next.
Isle of Dogs: 8.5/10