The Island is a science-fiction movie directed by Michael Bay. Our hero, Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) wakes up from a nightmare in which he sees himself drowning. What we, the spectators don’t know yet is that Lincoln has actually woken up to a sterile world which has nothing do with the real world. Lincoln wakes up from a nightmare to what appears to be an unreal reality. As Lincoln wakes up he sees a screen in front of him on which is written “Erratic REM Sleep Cycle Detected,” followed by “Please Report to Tranquility Center.” Lincoln gets out of his bed and goes to the toilet. As he urinates, another screen appears in front of him with the words “Sodium Excess Detected, Advising Nutritional Control.” On top of all these a speaker intervenes: “A healthy person is a happy person.”
Lincoln is living in an environment in which he is surveilled and controlled at all times. This environment is in fact an underground factory which produces human clones. Lincoln is nothing but a clone produced to be consumed when the time comes. We, the spectators, will later on learn that this environment was an institution used by the American Ministry of Defence for military research. Now it has been passed on to a medical corporation sponsored by extremely rich people to produce clones. These clones are the copies of those rich people who have various illnesses. Lincoln Six-Echo, for instance, is the clone of a Scottish man named Tom Lincoln who suffers from Hepatitis and who is expected to die in two years. This means that in two years time Lincoln Six-Echo will be killed and his organs will be transferred to his sponsor Tom Lincoln.
The DNA samples taken from the sponsors are used to produce clones. These clones are then grown in a womb-like environment until they reach the age of their sponsors. Some of the clones are grown for their hearts, some for their eyes, skins, and some for their internal organs. As they are grown they are almost injected a memory through audio-visual imagery, their consciousness is completely artificial just like themselves. Although they look no different from a normal human being they are in fact programmed to desire to go to The Island. They are continually told that they are the chosen ones, that they are the only survivors from a terrible epidemic which destroyed almost all life on earth, that they are lucky for being where they now are. Of course these clones need some kind of motive to be able to bear their monotonous existence. Their motive is waiting for the day on which they will win the lottery and go to the last piece of beauty left on earth after the epidemic; an exotic island, a heaven on earth. Through this lottery business the life in this institution is invested with a meaning. Educated to the level of fifteen year old children, the clones do not question their lives. They think that they really are chosen and they really want to go to the island. But Lincoln is unhappy and unsatisfied. He thinks there should be more to life than waiting for the departure towards the island. When he talks with his psychiatrist who is in fact the manager of the corporation, his psychiatrist tells him this: “You can’t see how lucky you are Lincoln. You have survived the epidemic, you are comfortable here, what else do you want?” Lincoln is not satisfied with this answer and goes to places he shouldn’t, sees things he better not. Following an insect Lincoln finds himself at a hidden section of the institute, a hospital, where he sees that those who are chosen to go to the island are in fact killed for their organs. Lincoln understands that there is no such thing as an epidemic, and no such place as the island, that all this island business is merely a fantasy to keep the clones operating efficiently as they wait.
On the night of the day that Lincoln learns the truth his lover Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlet Johansson) wins the lottery. Realising that the turn of death has come to Jordan, Lincoln goes to her room to warn her. After that the movie turns into a typical adventure movie in which many cars explode and many people die. At the end our hero and heroine destroy the corporation and save all the clones from their miserable existences.
The importance of this movie derives from the way in which it criticizes modern power structures which produces subjects in such a way as to serve the system which consumes them. The subjects are subjectified so as to feel happy and content with being locked in hopeful dreams. The Island shows that even what we call the unconscious is a construct, that the drives are not natural, but rather cultural products.
What we see here is how the life drive turns out to be the death drive. As the clones wait for the day they will finally start living a real life full of pleasures, they are in fact waiting for the day they will die. As they die the system in which they are locked gains strength. Through the death of the subjects the system prolongs its own life.