Isle of Dogs Review - Puppy Love at First Sight?

Isle of Dogs Review - Projected Film

Runtime: 101mins | Director: Wes Anderson | Rating: 4.5 Stars

Oh, Wes Anderson – what are you like? You either love him or you hate him. Rarely is there an in-between.

Due to the intense, unapologetic stylisation of his films and deadpan humour he fills them with some people struggle watch his works. If he isn’t your cup of tea then Isle of Dogs is unlikely to convert you – sorry!

That being said, if you already love him or the jury’s still out, you should definitely see Isle of Dogs – it’s an incredibly enjoyable film and a delight to watch.

Set in a dystopian future the Japanese city of Megasaki is struck by ‘dog flu’. In an attempt to prevent the flu spreading further the cat-loving mayor, Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), decrees all dogs must be banished to Trash Island - once there, they can never leave. This soon changes though when Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), the mayor’s nephew, goes on a rescue mission to save his dog, Spots (Liev Schreiber). Of course, nothing is ever that simple though, and Atari ends up befriending a ragtag bunch of dogs to help. Whilst on their rescue mission, however, the group soon discover a larger nefarious plot at hand and attempt to stop it.

Isle of Dogs Review - Projected Film

As with every Wes Anderson film, Isle of Dogs seeps originality and unbridled creativity – it’s innate to his style. This is bolstered by a seemingly too-good-to-be-true cast comprising of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton and many, many more.

If anything, this is one of the few flaws of the film - the cast is so full of incredible actors that it’s impossible for them all to get a proper look in. As a result, you can’t help but feel that some of the people lending their voices are wasted, or at a minimum, underused. This is very much a minor gripe though – after all, you can hardly complain about having a cast which is too good!

Isle of Dogs Review - Projected Film

Without a doubt though, the most impressive thing about Isle of Dogs (and I’d argue with any Wes Anderson film, as shown here) is how beautiful it is to watch. Every scene is framed perfectly and the symmetry is mesmerising. It’s very clear how much time, effort and thought go into each of his films.

This is even more impressive when you take into account the film is shot entirely in stop-motion and required 27 animators and 10 assistants to help make it. The level of detail in each individual set and character is astounding and is evident throughout the film. To see a short behind the scenes video about the creation and stop-motion of Isle of Dogs, click here.

Isle of Dogs Review - Projected Film

Something which caught me off guard, however, was how much I ended up caring for the characters. I’m an open lover of cats (let’s not start that debate…) so wasn’t expecting to care about the dogs much. In the film, however, the dogs talk exclusively in English and almost everyone else in Japanese without subtitles. This immediately alienates you from the humans and aligns you with the dogs who you have more in common with. As the film progresses, however, you start loving the dogs more and more due to the brilliant personalities they have been given by both Wes and the respective voice actors.

Isle of Dogs Review - Projected Film

What’s interesting about the film though is that unlike most, it doesn’t really fall into an obviously recommended age bracket.

On one hand, you have an innocent film which, at its most base, is about a boy going on a rescue mission to find his lost dog. And on the other hand, you have a film about political corruption, dog-genocide and self-discovery.

Either way, there is something for everyone.

However, whilst hugely enjoyable, the one criticism I’ll make of Isle of Dogs is that it’s not at all linear - in fact, it’s a mess timeline wise. One second you’re in the past, then you’re in the future again, then you’re in the past again, and so on and so forth. Whilst I managed to keep up with the plot, I felt the film could have been structured in a much neater way.

All in all, though, Isle of Dogs is everything you’d expect a Wes Anderson film to be – colourful, creative, hilarious and exceptionally quirky. That coupled with an incredibly original story, an all-star cast and impressive soundtrack makes this a must-see.

To watch the trailer – click here.

Ps. if you happen to be in London before the 8th of April there is a free Isle of Dogs exhibition which houses some of the sets from the film. It’s free to enter, so if you have the time, make the most of it! To see more information about the exhibit – click here.


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