It’s exceedingly hard to explain the plot of 1980’s The Island without it sounding silly. In a few words, it’s the modern-day story of a reporter and his son being kidnapped and held captive by a crew of inbred pirates who’ve managed to stay under the radar of modern society for 300 years. See? Silly. And yet, not even remotely. Based on a book by the same bloke that wrote Jaws, this is a well crafted story and a decent pirate flick to boot.
The basic deal is this – the famous buccaneer l’Ollonais apparently didn’t die as most historical accounts state (being torn apart alive and eaten by native cannibals), but rather he founded his own society of pirates. His children, grand-children, and great grand-children have continued to raid passing ships by means of acquiring the necessities of life. They honor their past, follow a code, and basically live the “good life”, with the tiny exception that their limited gene pool has begun to bottom out. But never fear – these crafty pirates have learned the key to their salvation. Rather than simply stealing booty, it’s time to start stealing children as well. See? Problem solved.
Actually, not entirely, as all these disappearing ships haven’t gone unnoticed – something about cult theories involving a “Bermuda Triangle”, which prods reporter Blair Maynard to investigate, bringing his song Justin along in tow. But it’s not long before they too are captured, and the pirates – learning of Blair and Justin’s surname, deduce that they much be decedents of the noble Lt. Maynard, defeater of Blackbeard. As such, Justin is taken away to be brainwashed in the hopes he may become heir to the pirate throne, while Blair, being too old for assimilation, is merely kept alive long enough to make a contribution to the fading gene pool (read between the lines, mates.)
Enough of the story – I don’t want to give too much away. Suffice to say, the tale is a good one, and the execution is even better. The methods and temperaments of the pirates seem quite feasible, considering the circumstances. In their raids they use tactics that were common in the days of sail, while still modifying them for modern times – in so far as they understand modern times, anyways. This is because, while having stolen increasingly modern plunder, most of modern society is lost on them. Pirate anachronisms, content to live as they’ve always done, raid as they’ve always raided.
This film does have some gore, and the brutality isn’t watered down. But by and large, this is a drama, although you’re far more likely to find it in the horror section of your video store – if you can find it at all. But should you find it, grab it and hold on like grim death – this one’s a treasure, me lads!