If you’re familiar with the work of Wes Anderson, you’ll know what to expect from his films: oddball characters, immaculate set design, a quirky plot and an immaculately assembled ensemble cast. In his latest feature, Isle of Dogs, Anderson not only meets your expectations but exceeds them.
The story is set in future Japan, where all dogs have been quarantined on Trash Island due to an outbreak of highly contagious dog-flu. A young boy, Atari, flies to the island, in order to find his beloved guard dog, Spots.
First, let’s start off by saying this: this movie is a masterpiece. It has heart, it has beauty and it has a screenplay that most movies could only dream of having. It’s sharp, witty and perfectly crafted.
Wes Anderson is one of those directors whose movies always cause a slight stir. Whether it’s the unconventional plot, the unusual characters or even the place in which the film is set; he is known for being weird.
That being said, Isle of Dogs is not unbelievably weird in all ways, but it does have that signature sheen of the Anderson veneer. Whilst watching, it’s almost impossible not to see his directorial touch: his artistic style and his humour are draped across the movie like fine fabrics, elevating the finished product to something more than just a stop-motion animation.
As is usual with Anderson’s movies, he has a stellar cast to bring his work to life, including the likes of Anderson alumni Bill Murray and Edward Norton, as well as Scarlett Johannson and Bryan Cranston. These actors are brilliantly selected, bringing life to these animals and humans alike.
The Japanese setting is elevated by the genuine use of the language and the language barrier between the humans and the dogs. The inclusion of translation, through subtitles and interpreters, is very clever, bringing a new texture and a new layer of storytelling to the film. It is clear that this movie was painstakingly crafted, and it is definitely clear that all the hard work paid off.
As usual, the aesthetics of the movie are unreal. They are a visual banquet of colours and textures, really bringing life to the world that Anderson has created. The cinematography adds even more beauty, really showing the stark contrast between the location of Trash Island and man’s best friend. Honestly, if it wasn’t unbelievably gorgeous, would it even be a Wes Anderson movie?
Yes, there are some problems with the movie, but most of them are insignificant. It has caused a stir amongst some critics, with accusations of white-washing and insensitivity towards Japanese culture. These points are valid, and it is obvious that Hollywood needs to work on its representation of other cultures. Anderson, however beautiful his movie is, should not be an exception to that.
Isle of Dogs is an example of a genuinely brilliant movie. It has characters with souls and genuine heart, who make the audience feel every emotion all at once. It has a story that awakens your inner child, as well as your inner dog-loving self. It is brilliantly made, shot, acted and written. It’s a triumph. Dogs may be man’s best friend, but I’d say that this movie is a close second.