Film Review: Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs is the newest stop-motion animated feature from acclaimed director Wes Anderson, and takes place in the not-too-distant future in a Megasaki City. There, Mayor Kobiashi (Kunichi Nomura) makes a decree to deport every dog to Trash Island after a massive Snout Virus breaks out. Six months later, the Mayor’s nephew (Koyu Rankin) heads over to Trash Island to find his dog, Spots (Liev Schrieber), with the help of a cold-hearted Stray dog named Chief (Bryan Cranston), and the other household dogs that make his pack on Trash Island. These include Rex (Edward Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), and King (Bob Balaban). Meanwhile, Professor Watanabe (Akira Ito) attempts to find a cure for the disease, and a foreign student named Tracy (Greta Gerwig) has a hunch about something suspicious happening within the government.

The greatest thing about this film is the animation. A lot of detail and work went into capturing the dog’s movements and creating the fight scenes (check out some BTS clips on YouTube— it’s quite fascinating). Furthermore, the sets have so much amazing detail in them, especially in the establishing shot of the town, with its beautiful colours and symmetrical design.. Every shot has a gorgeous, surreal and balanced look that is a staple to the director’s signature style, and I love it.

The story itself is simple, but quite quirky and somewhat interesting. There’s a message about the relationship between a man and his best friend, as well as government corruption, mixed in with some dry humour mostly associated with Anderson’s filmography. The all-star cast (also including Scarlett Johannson, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, and Yoko Ono) deliver fantastic performances. The best performance comes from Cranston as Chief. He’s got a good backstory and a great menacing persona brought to life by a talented actor of a massive range.

But having too much of a good thing can be considered its downfall. There are way too many characters squeezed into the small time limit of this film that could have been easily taken out without affecting the plot. Further, some flashback sequences happen very abruptly during compelling moments. But aside from that, I say it’s a pretty solid piece of rare animation filled with smooth, detailed and surreal animation, amazing cast performances, some nice dry wit, and a simple but original story. If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson, animation in general, or even dogs, I reckon you’ll leave the cinema saying “Isle of it”… I mean, “I love it”.

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