Isle of Dogs review

Indian Paint Brush

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“Isle of Dogs” is a breath of fresh air that brings a wonderful blend of style and artistry to the silver screen. Director Wes Anderson brings the movie to life with a team of stop-motion experts and a star-studded cast of voices, including Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, and Jeff Goldblum.

The movie is set in Japan, 20 years in the future. An epidemic of dog flu has begun to wreak havoc on the nation, and people fear the disease will become airborne. As a solution, the cat-loving mayor Kobayashi decides to quarantine all dogs on Trash Island. Almost every dog owner is willing to comply with this ruling, except for one: the mayor’s orphaned nephew, Atari. Atari, outraged at the ruling, flies a small plane to the trash island to find his dog, Spots. When he gets to the island, a pack of Alpha dogs finds him and helps guide him to Spots. Along their journey through trash island, we learn more about the political corruption leading to the banishment of dogs and an up and coming resistance movement dead set on stopping it. The film balances these different plot lines well, making for a movie filled with wit, intrigue, and excitement.

Beyond the plot, the film focuses on a larger theme of loyalty—very fitting for a dog movie.  The movie presses hard against its characters, forcing them into polarizing situations where they must pick a side. Characters are forced to question the validity of their loyalties, whether they are to a country, a family, an idea or just to themselves. This ability for a character to suddenly switch sides and crack under pressure gives viewers an incredible sense of anticipation. As a viewer, you don’t know how much pressure a character is willing to tolerate, nor what has happened to them in the past, leaving you to try and guess what they’ll do next.

The story in this movie, while intriguing, takes an undeniable back seat to the presentation. The entire film feels less like a film, and more like a moving painting. Instead of focusing on plot points and biting dialogue, the film opts to leave large portions either in un-subtitled Japanese or entirely silent. This creates some incredible moments, where you as the viewer feel less like you are watching a movie, and more like you have gotten lost in an entirely different reality. Viewers keep up not by exposition, but by emotion and tone. When people don’t speak, the music does. When you feel something, the movie shoots that feeling back at you with bright colors painted across the environment. The effort put into this movie is clear with its ability to speak its loudest when no one is talking.

“Isle of Dogs” is a movie unlike any other. It’s both heartfelt and serious, and while not really a kids movie, it’s never obscenely violent nor vulgar. Everything that happens in the movie feels purposeful, which leaves the viewer constantly guessing, but never truly lost. If you’re looking for a movie with awe-inspiring visuals, powerful music, and an intense story, then “Isle of Dogs” is the movie for you.  

Pathfinder gives “Isle of Dogs” a 9/10.

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