Isle of Dogs – Review

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Bob Balaban, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Akira Takayama
Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola and Kunichi Nomura
Length: 101mins

After the ever-lovable success of Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2013, Wes Anderson returned to the stop-motion format back in 2018 with ‘Isle of Dogs’, a tale of one young boy who just wants to get back the pet which was stolen from him – ever-loyal ‘Spots’. In his way, however, lies the vengeful nature of his Uncle, the mayor of the city, who is absolutely more a cat than a dog person.

Wes Anderson’s work has been described time and time again as whimsical, quirky and nostalgic. To say ‘Isle of Dogs’ is any different would be denying the obvious, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of the film in any way. The charm of the handcrafted characters, the endearing dialogue which reads like a storybook, as well as the constant feeling of adventure, with anthropomorphised canines and adolescents piloting planes, contribute equally to a story of action, emotion and humour.

With segments from classic Japanese films such as ‘Seven Samurai’ and ‘Drunken Angel’ layered within the score, composer Alexandre Desplat creates a rhythmic soundscape of ritualistic drums and chants which create a constant feeling of motion and intensity within the narrative. The score is utilised to great effect, whether that be in the exaggeration of a corrupt mayor’s malpractice, or to reflect the regular footsteps of Atari and his companions as they summit peaks along Trash Island.

Wes Anderson has been known as divisive director, with some falling head-over-heels for his overdramatised detail and childlike whimsy, whilst others struggle to see the quirks as anything more than irksome. For me, the first description rings true, and although ‘Isle of Dogs’ may not live up to the grander storyline of ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel,’ or be as visually spectacular as ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’, this is a film which I could return to over and over again, and will always hold a special place in my heart. 

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