Isle of Dogs (Japanese: 犬ヶ島 Hepburn: Inugashima) is a stop-motion-animated science-fiction comedy-drama written, produced and directed by Wes Anderson. Isle of Dogs was produced by Indian Paintbrush and Anderson’s own production company, American Empirical Pictures, in association with Studio Babelsberg. Set in a dystopian near-future Japan, the story follows a young boy searching for his dog after the species is banished to an island following the outbreak of a canine flu. I thought Isle of Dogs was well done with a very entertaining plot.
Isle of Dogs opens in the Japanese archipelago, where 20 years into the future, an outbreak of canine influenza spreads throughout the city of Megasaki. There’s a risk the canine flu could cross over to humans. The city’s 6-term authoritarian mayor, Kenji Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), signs a decree banishing all dogs to Trash Island, despite a scientist named Professor Watanabe (Akira Ito) insisting he is close to finding a cure for the dog flu. The first dog exiled is Spots (Live Schreiber), a white and black-marked pink-nosed dog who served as the bodyguard of 12-year-old Atari Kobayashi (Koyui Rankin), the orphaned nephew and ward of the mayor. This action would later be revealed as part of a conspiracy by Mayor Kobayashi and his political party, who are seeking to finish what their ancestors attempted long ago, removing all dogs from Japan.
**** SPOILERS BELOW ****
Fast forward six months later, Atari hijacks a plane and flies it to Trash Island to search for Spots. After crash-landing, Atari is rescued by a pack of dogs led by a seemingly all-black dog named Chief (Brian Cranston), a former stray. The pack decides to help Atari locate Spots, although Chief refuses to join because of his inability to fraternize with humans. Together, they fend off a rescue team accompanied by a band of robot dogs, compliments of Mayor Kobayashi, who sent the dogs to retrieve Atari. The mayor claims Atari was kidnapped by the dogs and vows to kill them as punishment. At the insistence of a female purebred dog named Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson), Chief reluctantly decides to accompany the group on their search.
During their journey, while the dogs reminisce on the foods their owners once fed them, Chief admits that he was once owned by a family, until he bit the youngest child out of fear. They seek advice from two sage dogs, Jupiter (F. Murray Abraham) and Oracle (Tilda Swinton), who warn them of the existence of an isolated tribe of dogs rumored to be cannibals. Meanwhile, Professor Watanabe finds a cure and shows the results to Kobayashi, who still refuses to lift the dog ban. The professor is put on house arrest for criticizing Kobayashi and is then killed by poisoned wasabi served in a psushi. An American exchange student, Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig), suspects a conspiracy and begins to investigate.
In the meanwhile, Chief and Atari are inadvertently separated from the others. Atari gives Chief a bath, which reveals that his coat is actually white with black markings. Noticing the similarity between Chief and Spots (other than Chief having a black nose), Atari realizes they must be of the same extremely rare breed. Chief remembers being part of a nine-pup litter of which all but one died. He bonds with Atari as they continue their journey. Chief and Atari rejoin the group, but are ambushed by Mayor Kobayashi’s men.
Isle of Dogs is a solid story with on an exciting, adventurous journey. I loved the entire movie and I especially liked the way it ended. The adventure gets even more exciting as the plot thickens. There is much to learn from this movie as the many messages are loud and clear. An outstanding cast was assembled and it shows. The film’s voice cast also includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Fisher Stevens, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson, Frank Wood, Kunichi Nomura, and Yoko Ono. It also received nominations for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Score at the 76th Golden Globe Awards. See how Isle of Dogs turns out, I’m almost certain you won’t be able to predict what’s next! Isle of Dogs is available on Amazon, iTunes, HBO and Xfinity — Check It Out!
[Isle of Dogs is Oscar nominated for Best Original Score and Best Animated Feature Film]