Isle of Dogs, Glasgow Film Festival 2018 – review by Rachelle Atalla

Isle of dogs image

Isle of Dogs – A review by Rachelle Atalla

Anyone who has watched a Wes Anderson film will be aware that it’s best to leave scepticism at the door and embrace his bizarre and whimsical world. Isle of Dogs is no exception. I’ll admit that I wasn’t the greatest fan of Anderson’s first attempt at stop-motion (Fantastic Mr. Fox) and that I approached Isle of Dogs with apprehension. Luckily however I had nothing to fear. Set in a dystopian vision of Japan, the fictional city of Megasaki is governed by corrupt mayor Kobayashi. With diseases like ‘Snout Fever’ ravaging the canine species and no supposed cure on the horizon, Kobayashi orders all dogs, domestic or otherwise, to be exiled to Trash Island.

The dogs exist in a ‘Lord of the Flies’ society where the future is bleak until Kobayashi’s twelve-year-old nephew Atari arrives, crash landing his solo plane. A motley crew of dogs led by Chief (Bryan Cranston) help Atari on a rescue mission to locate his beloved dog Spots. Now I know what some of you may be thinking – is this not a little twee? No, weirdly it is not – the developing relationship between Atari and Chief being particularly poignant.

There are several subplots and flashbacks that strand themes including corruption and canine genocide, and on the whole these are executed well. A host of stalwart actors provide the voices for the dogs and the result leaves a comforting and cosy feeling, Jeff Goldblum perhaps getting some of the best one-liners. However, at times the dialogue feels a little muddled. Bill Murray’s voice above all seems to get lost in the mix and this is a real shame.

Visually, it is a beautiful thing to watch and with so many intricate details there is perhaps too much to truly appreciate in one viewing. Anderson’s imaging of Japan for the most part feels respectful and authentic. The dogs speak in English but the majority of human dialogue is expressed in Japanese and this strengthens the film. However, the American exchange student voiced by Greta Gerwig and her role in the pro-dog movement seems overstated and rather stereotypical of the ‘American coming to save the day’.

There is much to ponder with this film. In our current political climate, which feels somewhat dystopian itself, parallels can certainly be drawn and because of this there is more substance to Isle of Dogs in comparison to say, previous works including The Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson has delivered something of a modern fable and its message deserves to be pondered. 

Rachelle Atalla, March, 2018

Isle of Dogs will show at Glasgow Film Theatre from 30 March until 1 April, 2018

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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