Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his dog.
Wes Anderson’s latest feature is his second venture into stop-motion animation after 2009’s ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ and it’s a delightful trip through a dystopian near-future Japan. I love dogs and Japan is one of my favourite places so I was predisposed to like this despite finding Anderson’s style hit and miss for the most part, and I did really enjoy it. The premise of the film focuses on a dog flu virus that spreads throughout the canine population, leading the mayor of ‘Megasaki City’ to sign a decree to banish all dogs to ‘Trash Island’ despite a prominent scientist being close to finding a cure. One of those dogs belonged to Atari (Koyu Rankin), the mayor’s nephew, and he sets off for Trash Island in search of the dog, aided on his way by a collection of canine’s who roam the island.
‘Isle of Dogs’ is interesting in many ways for Wes Anderson, primarily in it taking an approach that is more overtly political than anything he has produced in the past. The mass hysteria and rush to judgement to banish the dogs makes for a fairly clear metaphor that I suspect most people will pick up on and it plays out in a way that feels unique on account of Anderson’s trademark style. I’m far from Anderson’s biggest fan and often find his films to be style over substance and ‘Isle of Dogs’ is undoubtedly stylishly made (a sushi making sequence is a joy to behold) but it really clicked with me on this occasion. The stellar voice cast helps with the core pack of dogs voiced by Bryan Cranston alongside Anderson regulars such as Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton and Bob Balaban, with a solid mix of Japanese and western actors, curiously all speaking in their own language with no subtitles. The film does have one key misstep in my opinion, surrounding the character of Tracy (Greta Gerwig) who plays out as a classic example of the ‘white saviour’ trope – it’s not something I’d usually be bothered by but it seemed particularly egregious on this occasion.
Most of the comedy comes in smaller moments or little sight gags and Anderson’s attention to detail is served really well in this regard. It’s got a lot of charm, fun performances and a good story and I really liked ‘Isle of Dogs’ and on a first impression would regard it as one of Wes Anderson’s stronger movies.
Directed By: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Akira Ito, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Mari Natsuki, Fisher Stevens, Nijiro Murakami, Liev Schreiber, Courtney B. Vance, Yojiro Noda and Frank Wood