It seems like every new Wes Anderson film brings out the same statement… if you like Wes Anderson films, then you’ll love this one. And that’s certainly true of Isle of Dogs too. Thankfully I love Anderson’s work and Isle of Dogs delivers a truly inventive and brilliantly-intricate story that makes you laugh, makes you sad and always keeps you guessing throughout.
We join a group of dogs marooned on a trash-heap island after a mysterious virus spreads across Japan. A young boy named Atari (the voice of Koyu Rankin) crash-lands on the island and together with the dogs (voiced by Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton and Bob Balaban) goes in search of his own lost pooch.
Using stop-motion animation much like he did in Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson once again excels at delivering a visually stimulating piece of cinema that is gorgeously conceptualised. This is some of his finest work to date, with an attention to detail that simply drops your jaw. From slight visual gags that run in the background of a scene to ambitious set-piece involving sheer scale, Isle of Dogs is a labour of love and enthusiasm that drips onto every frame of this film.
The vocal cast are all amazing as you’d expect. Jeff Goldblum always steals his scenes, and Bryan Cranston leads the line well. Familiar Anderson collaborators like Edward Norton, Bill Murray, F. Murray Abraham and Harvey Keitel are all their sublime selves. Then there are other memorable supporting turns from the likes of Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Akira Ito, Scarlett Johansson and even Yoko Ono.
The film has come under scrutiny recently for its representation of Japan. On the one hand it is a loving homage to it, and I genuinely think that this was Wes Anderson’s only intention. But others have accused Anderson of cultural appropriation. There is a case to be made for that, and some of the scenes and themes of the film could be dissected. It’s something the viewing public will have to make their minds up on, and I expect it will divide audiences right down the middle.
Sweet, hilarious and frequently offbeat, with Anderson’s unique style and vision used to great effect here, Isle of Dogs is a solid film. It won’t beat the sheer brilliance of The Grand Budapest Hotel, but it does enough to keep Anderson fans happy before his next project. And if you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ll certainly love how he has captured that magical essence that exists between humans and canines.
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johnasson, Greta Gerwig, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama, Yoko Ono, Frances McDormand, Akira Ito Director: Wes Anderson Writer: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, Kunichi Nomura Released By: 20th Century Fox Certificate: 12A Duration: 111 mins Release Date: 23rd March 2018