Whether you are a die-hard fan, or unconvinced viewer, there is no denying that writer and director Wes Anderson is a true auteur. With his distinctive visual style, quirky humour, and strong ensemble casts, his work has spawned more than twenty years.
His latest project reunites him with many of his long time actor collaborators and sees him tackle his second animated feature film. Isle Of Dogs puts Anderson’s humour, visuals, and casting talents to brilliant use inti a charming film about man’s best friend, featuring the voice talents of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Greta Gerwig and Frances McDormand to name just a few. The film is smart, funny and warm enough to convert those not usually in-tune with Anderson’s work, (myself included), while still satisfyingly his loyal fanbase.
Set in a near-future Japan, a new strain of flu has infected the countries K9 population. Corrupt Mayor Kobayashi, orders that all dogs be banished to nearby Trash Island without testing a potential cure. An oddball band of Dogs, led by Chief (Cranston), gathers together to survive and meet a young boy who travels to the Island. Young Atari has travelled to find his dog, but can the gang keep Atari safe?
Writer, Director Anderson has worked in both live-action as well as stop-motion animation. His previous animated effort saw him adapt Roald Dahl’s classic Fantastic Mr. Fox. Despite using stop-motion element’s in his work, this is only his second full length animated feature.
As usual with Anderson’s work, the film contains darker elements, such as death and betrayal, while portraying it’s themes with dry humour. The dogs, although cute, are ragged and damaged and the human’s are equally dishevelled. The humour is equally slap-stick in visuals while still feeling sophisticated. This mix gives the film a wide appeal.
What drives the films story is it’s wide range of characters, from stern stray Chief to neurotic Rex and tough Nutmeg, The characters all speaking different languages (English, Japanese or Dog) but the film informs us that the audience will understand all, even when characters will not. You watch the characters learn to understand one another regardless of their language barriers.
With his directing style described as detailed, Isle of Dogs shows a film maker more confident in his craft. The movement is smooth, the settings ambitious and the range of characters are brilliantly realised. Here split screens are often used to contrast different events and emphasise time. The result is an engaging and accomplished film.
Anderson’s name is synonymous with acting talent. For his large ensemble cast he has gathered familiar varied names. He has garnered a different kind of performance from his cast – voices feel softer and more monotone than their usual. Yet the dialogue gives them edge and character, led by Cranston as the hardened Chief becoming a young boys protector and liberator of Trash Island.
Once again Anderson has produced a visually stunning stop-motion feature film. Quirky and charming while engaging those not usually accustomed to his style. Isle of Dogs takes the simple boy and his dog trope to new heights.
Isle of Dogs is out 30th March!