Film Review: Isle of Dogs

The credits roll at the end of Isle of Dogs, but the taiko drums may still be ringing in your ears. Wes Anderson’s latest film is a departure from his usual cinematic-style. Gone are the ‘light pastel colours’, ‘eccentric characters’ and ‘upbeat sequence’ which characterised recent films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom. This latest film, a stop-motion animation, is a genuine surprise. 

Isle of Dogs, also known as Inugashima, starts off with bold striking introductory titles in red, tangerine and yellow. Audiences are brought to a fictional dystopian city in Japan called Megasaki, where a political assembly is held by the newly elected mayor, Kobayashi. Mayor Kobayashi signs a decree banishing all dogs to Trash Island as a solution to a dog flu epidemic amongst the canine population.

The story unfolds with human protagonist Atari, who travels to Trash Island hoping to find his guard dog Spots and embarks on an adventure with four other dogs. Each dog is brought to life by big names such as Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum as well as Anderson film alumni Bill Murray and Bob Balaban. 

Courtesy of Fox Search Light pictures

The plot is more straightforward than a typical Anderson film – which could be the influence of three other writers – Roman Coppola, Jason Swartzman and Kunichi Nomura. Isle of Dogs offers homage and appreciation to man’s best friend, and also allows audiences to explore yet another side of Wes Anderson’s fascinating imaginary world. 

Anderson may have strayed away from his familiar colours and themes, yet the movie retains some Anderson trademarks in the composition of the shots. The animation team of 37 people including assistants have tailored each detail to create a delicate and lively set. Take a look at the making of and marvel at the impressive craft work behind the creation of the world of Isle of Dogs.

Even if the plot isn’t to your liking, the details of characters and little bits and pieces of the movie are eye-catching. Perhaps being a stop-motion animation has allowed careful details to be embedded and distinctive on each character, every emotion reflected were handcrafted and changed second by second. E

The 101-minute movie is an intricate one. On the surface, it was a light comedy surrounding a political agenda (I had my fair share of laughs) with a number of scenes that tugged at the heartstrings. At it’s simplest, it is an ode to dogs. Live Schreiber, who voiced Spots, described the film as highlighting “a dog’s capacity for loyalty and compassion”,  and he wasn’t wrong. But there is so much to appreciate from this film – the creative effort, cues and hopes that democracy still exists within us, the extraordinary voice cast and the dogs. In this film, at least, some humans are the naughty ones. 

P.S. Just clarifying that I was definitely biased towards the Wes Anderson’s obsessive-compulsive in detailing and dogs in general. 

Director: Wes Anderson

Writer: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Scwhartzman, Kunichi Nomura

Stars: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Kunichi Nomura, Ken Watanabe, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 101 minutes

Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, Comedy








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