GFF18 Review – Isle Of Dogs UK Premiere

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Isle Of Dogs [rating=5]

This evening Glasgow Film Festival held it’s opening night gala presenting Wes Anderson’s ninth feature film (and his second using stop-motion), ‘Isle of Dogs’, at it’s sold-out and hugely anticipated UK premiere here in the city. Starring the voices of Edward Norton (Fight Club, Moonrise Kingdom), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Trumbo), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Thor: Ragnarok), Bob Balaban (Ghost World, Howl) and longtime Anderson collaborator Bill Murray (Lost In Translation, Ghostbusters), ‘Isle Of Dogs’ opened both Glasgow Film Festival and Berlin Film Festival and has been received positively from both festival audiences.

In the beginning, viewers are informed that all characters will speak in their native language and will only occasionally be translated to English by the in-film translator woman (voiced by Frances McDormand) with the exception of the dogs – who have their barks translated to English at all times. Set in the fictional city of Megasaki, a near-future version of Japan, corrupt cat-loving Mayor Kobayashi (voiced by Kunichi Nomura, one of the film’s co-writers) orders all of the city’s dogs to be exiled on a barren wasteland island to live out the rest of their days surrounded by piles of garbage and sewage, rather aptly named ‘Trash Island’ after the spread of a dog-flu. After his bodyguard dog and best friend Spots is exiled to live on the island, twelve year old Atari Kobayashi, hijacks a government plane and flies it to the island in search of his best friend. Upon crash landing, Atari meets a pack of dogs spearheaded by ex-house pet and the pack’s voice of reason, Rex, who grant him their protection on his journey to find his dog – much to the bemusement of fellow pack member and longtime stray, Chief. The film focuses heavily on the tension between Atari and Chief and the latter’s character development which is where most of the emotion in the film develops, something I wasn’t quite expecting based on the trailer but works on every level.

‘Isle of Dogs’ is an absolutely stunning film both in terms of it’s visuals and it’s musical score, masterfully created by Alexandre Desplat resembling the kumi-daiko drumming style in what is his fourth collaboration with Anderson on his films. Aesthetically I had a real desire to pause the film on pretty much every scene just to admire the abundance of detail put into every frame, whether it was the beautifully crafted characters or the Japanese style visual art used in certain parts of the storytelling (I’ll have a review of the film’s ‘making of’ book here as soon as it has released in the UK). The film also has a fantastic and diverse cast of actors bringing the characters to life and the best use of visual humour I’ve seen in a long time – I mean, is there anything better than canines brawling with dog-catchers in an over-the-top tooth and claw dust cloud? It was like a homage to old-style Saturday morning cartoons you watched back in the day with a little added gore.

It is clear that Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle Of Dogs’ is a love letter to not only dogs, but Japanese cinema. You can tell clearly that Anderson has a real-love of Japanese cinema by the attention to detail in every aspect of this film. It is an absolutely gorgeous animated feature with a lot of heart and laughs, and one that I recommend to dog lovers, cinema lovers – everyone.

Animation | USA, 2018 | 15 | 30th March 2018 (UK) | Dir. Wes Anderson | Fox Searchlight | Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton