Wes Anderson creates his 2nd stop-motion masterpiece

Wes Anderson creates his 2nd stop-motion masterpiece

Rating: 4/5

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama and Greta Gerwig.

Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs is a dog movie and yet it's not. It's a wonderful stop-motion film that shows how "a pack of scary, indestructible alpha dogs" help 12-year-old Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) find his guard dog Spots.

Isle of Dogs is set in a dystopian Japan, 20 years in the future when Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) of Megasaki City banishes all dogs to a wasteland island called "Trash Island".

Kobayashi is a fear-mongering political leader who has come to power in a futuristic Japan when he begins a war on dogs.

The mayor is an easy-to-identify personality, given that we live at a time when this type of leaders is presiding over many right-wing governments across the world.

While there is one (read small) group that is fighting for the greater cause of dogs' rights, this influential leader wants to invalidate scientific research and push for a centuries-old prejudice through approval from the majority.

Six months after the dogs begin getting banished to Trash Island, Atari crashlands on the island and proves lucky in finding a pack of dogs – Chief (Bryan Cranston), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban) and Boss (Bill Murray).

There’s also a clear canine vs feline tug of war in the film. We are not compelled to pick sides here but let’s just say that one of them holds the nickname "man’s best friend", or as one of the dogs in the film puts it: "They are the property of heaven, I think. And they’re here for the purpose of enlightening the humans that are their caretakers".

Anderson uses a quirky new technique to highlight the vast communication gap between the dogs and the humans. The humans in the movie only speak Japanese while the dogs speak English.

The words used by the humans that in fact are understood by the dogs are plain instructions such as "sitto" and "fetcho". Due to this, the simple human beings end up believing that dogs understand only these words, even as Anderson satirises the humans for their inability to see beyond their own words.

The film is full of such clever subversions and games. From signboards that say "Beware of dogs" that convey a completely different meaning in this world to dogs who end up playing fetch only because they feel bad for the humans, this is a clever film about dogs and acceptance. After all, if you keep saying Isle of Dogs over and over again, you do end up saying "I love dogs".

A layered narrative is the strength of this dog movie, which is also a lot more than a dog movie, making Isle of Dogs one of the greatest films of the year.

 

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