‘Isle of Dogs’
“Isle of Dogs” is another fabulously entertaining movie by director Wes Anderson. It follows in the footsteps of his previous gems including “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001), “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004), “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009), “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014).
“Isle of Dogs,” a stop-motion animated film, tells the tragic story of a futuristic city in Japan where all dogs are exiled to Trash Island. The excuse used by Mayor Kobayashi, who was running for re-election, is that all dogs need to be exterminated to eliminate the spread of dog flu and other diseases that are allegedly threatening the human population.
The island itself is a disaster area where the dogs’ only source of food is decaying garbage. Your heart breaks as you watch many of the canines slowly drift toward death from starvation and other illnesses.
In the process, you watch the mayor’s ward, Atari (Koyu Rankin), crash a small biplane on the island in search of his beloved dog, Spots (voice by Liev Schrieber). He gains the support of five dogs (voiced by Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton and Bryan Cranston) who help him navigate an island filled with danger at every turn.
What follows is an adventure that will periodically bring tears to your eyes. As the dogs continually risk their own lives fighting the mayor’s hitmen and robotlike hounds, scientists on the mainland strangely disappear after they come up with a cure for the principal illnesses afflicting the dogs. As a young exchange student from Ohio (voiced by Greta Gerwig) tries to help the surviving scientist unveil the mayor’s fraud, Atari and his beloved posse of mutts try to return home to show that they represent no threat to mankind.
This movie is an adult film that is likely to fly over the heads of most children. Though the dogs can speak, their dialogue is in English, while all the adults speak Japanese with occasional subtitles. While I found this whole process enchanting, kids are likely to be left struggling to understand the meaning of this film.
“Isle of Dogs” bears a startling resemblance to what is going on in the United States today. The Japanese mayor was seeking public support for banishing dogs in the same fashion that President Donald Trump is doing as he demonizes Muslims and Hispanic immigrants. He wants them exiled to countries that he has personally described as a version of Trash Island, and his attempts to build a border wall would be admired by the Japanese mayor in Mr. Anderson’s film.
“A Quiet Place”
“A Quiet Place,” directed by and starring John Krasinski and his wife, Emily Blunt, begins with a scene in an abandoned American town with the words “89th day” appearing on the screen. You watch our two talented actors, known here as Lee and Evelyn, gathering supplies from an empty store with their three children. They are walking barefoot, and they don’t generate the slightest sound, including communicating only through sign language.
As they leave home you quickly learn that some creatures are devouring humans, but they can only respond to sound, given that they lack vision. Something tragic happens as the family tries to walk back home before dark, and you next see them after a year has passed.
This film builds on the strengths shown in the excellent movie “Tremors” (1990) starring Kevin Bacon. Though “Tremors” was helped by some great humor, humans were hunted by underground, giant larvae-like creatures that rapidly burrowed toward any physical sound created by their human prey.
What makes “A Quiet Place” exceed the accomplishments of “Tremors” is that here you have a loving couple dedicated to each other and the survival of their family. It is not an exaggeration to say that you will smile through your tears as you watch this couple — husband and wife in real life — share earbuds as they dance closely in each other’s arms listening to Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.”
While Krasinski has no weak moments, watch Blunt as she follows up her marvelous performances in both “Into the Woods” (2014) and “Sicario” (2015). Doing all she can to create a normal home environment for the benefit of her children, wait until you see the horrifying moment where she delivers a child in a tub as she attempts to suppress all sound from a creature roaming nearby in her home. The fact that she will be starring in “Mary Poppins Returns” this Christmas is reason enough to put that film on your calendar.
Also adding great energy to this film are Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds as the two struggling children. However, Simmonds, deaf in real life, is positively brilliant in her role as a kid who is continually haunted by her mistaken feeling that she is being held responsible by her father for what happened to her brother earlier in the film. This is a performance that should require the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to pay attention later this year.
The bottom line is that this movie ranks in the same category of other challenging horror films ranging from “Night of the Living Dead” (1968), “The Omen” (1976), “The Exorcist” (1973) and “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968). On top of that, the creatures have an ugly resemblance to those in Ridley Scott’s classic “Alien” (1979).
And, while I don’t dare give anything away, wait until you see the scene where Krasinski stands at a distance watching his two children trapped in an old truck where a beast seeks to consume them. Though this was one of several moments in the film where I had to use my amblyopic left eye to lessen the visual shock, I predict that every one of you will have tears in your eyes at that moment.
• Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.