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The Island

Opening Date
23 Aug 2018
PG13 Some Coarse Language
131 mins
Mandarin with English & Chinese subtitles
Huang Bo
Huang Bo, Wang Bao Qiang, Shu Qi, Zhang Yixing
Working as a low-level employee in the company, Ma Jin has the pipe-dream of winning the lottery and getting the right girl – his colleague Shanshan. During the corporate team building trip, Ma finds out that with a staggering sum of sixty million yuan, he is the latest lottery grand prize winner. This moment of fulfilment is accompanied by an unexpected shipwreck with everybody washes ashore on a desert island...
By Say Peng  21 Aug 2018
With its broad humour, lighthearted tone, and a likeable cast, The Island is a competent and enjoyable mass-appeal film with a humanist message.
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Chinese singer-actor comedian Huang Bo directs and acts in his directorial debut, The Island, a survivalist Lord-of-the-Flies-inspired dramedy of a company of workers who set out on a boat on a team-building trip and end up being shipwrecked on a deserted island. The stranded-on-an-island survivalist genre is a perfect vehicle for a filmmaker to explore what he is really interested in. In Huang Bo’s case here, he is interested to explore the formation of social hierarchies and factions in human societies; in other words, of human nature. And the central thesis of the film is no revelation: power corrupts.

Huang Bo plays lead character Ma Jin, a humble plain-looking worker who is in love with his colleague, Shan Shan, played by Shu Qi, and dreams of winning the lottery with his best friend Xing, played by popular singer-songwriter Zhang Yixing or Lay. On the aforementioned company’s team-building trip, Ma Jin finds out that he has actually won the lottery. The prize: 60 million RMB. But, instead of a trip to look forward to, Ma Jin and his colleagues are swept away by a tsunami caused by a passing meteorite. Their boat shipwrecks on the island, and with 90 days to claim his prize, Ma Jin is desperate to return to the mainland.

In no time, a leader emerges: Wang, played by Wang Baoqiang. An ex-soldier and former circus monkey-trainer, Wang comes from the school of hard knocks and believes that his experience in monkey wrangling is transferable to his new position as the leader because there is not much difference between the two species of mammals. Ruling from intimidation and violence, Wang essentially runs mini-dictatorship.

A mutiny occurs, led by the company boss Zhang (Yu Hewei). Ever the enterprising capitalist, Zhang quickly establishes a basic money economy. Joining him at first because he thought Zhang was trying to find a way off the island, Ma Jin later quits when he finds out he’s been duped. Zhang merely wants to recruit as many employees as possible for his new island startup.

When the 90 days to redeem his lottery ticket is finally up, Ma Jin, ostracised by the others, at first seems to have lost all purpose in life. But a thunderbolt of cunning strikes him, and he and his sidekick best friend plots their comeback.

Running at over two hours, the film is full of falling ins and outs, twists and turns, and, despite a sagging second act, is seldom predictable. While some of the supporting characters, of which there are a dozen, could benefit from more depth, the film never loses the focus on its dramatic centrepiece that is Ma Jin’s blossoming relationship with Shan Shan as it also attempts to survey the human condition.

With its broad humour, lighthearted tone, and a likeable cast, The Island is a competent and enjoyable mass-appeal film with a humanist message.
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