Film Reviews

Film Review: Isle of Dogs


The story unfolds in Japan, sometime in the future. We meet a 12-year-old orphan boy named Atari Kobayashi who lives with his bodyguard dog named Spot and his uncle, the mayor of Megasaki City, a cat lover. We’re in the midst of  an ongoing war on dogs, and the leader of this pack is none other than Mayor Kobayashi.

A mysterious epidemic known as canine flu and snout fever has plagued all dogs in the city. The mayor makes an announcement declaring all canines a nuisance to society, and passes a law that immediately exiles all dogs to an island that’s used as a garbage dump—Trash Island. The story takes a painful bite when Mayor Kobayashi exiles the first dog to the island. It’s Spot!

The island is soon filled with dogs roaming in packs and fighting for garbage scraps. Chief, Rex, King, Boss, and Duke are all alpha dogs and their pack discovers Atari when he crashes his small plane on the island. Atari, who speaks Japanese, immediately bonds with the dogs, who are more than eager to help and please this small human. Chief, the leader of the pack is skeptical at first, being a street dog, but soon begins to realize his place and his need for human companionship.

Isle of Dogs is your typical Wes Anderson film, and if you are a fan then you know “typical” for this director means quirky, eccentric, and most of all original in his storytelling style. This is Anderson’s second stop-motion animated film with an all-star cast lending their voices to bring this affectionate dog story to life. It’s an adventure. A journey that leads each character to discover something special about themselves. Classic Wes Anderson storytelling.

One of the most unusual stylistic devices Anderson uses is silence between dialogue. The expressions without words speak volumes in the development of the story and the characters. The other unique element is that the dogs are the only ones that speak English, as well as Tracy Walker the foreign exchange student, and the leader of the “Pro Dog” group. Yet the story moves effortlessly without the viewer having to understand Japanese or English. The film is well-structured, and the expressions on each dog and human envelope the viewer, drawing you further and further in.

Isle of Dogs is a heartwarming story filled with friendship, loyalty, and unconditional love, and it ranks as one of Wes Anderson’s best films. Dog lover or not, it will appeal to you from an emotional standpoint, as you watch a group of alpha dogs follow a boy in search of his beloved.

4 of 5 stars