Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Kunichi Nomura, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand
Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog. (Source: IMDb)
It feels like every Wes Anderson film could be described as peak Wes Anderson, but forgive for the repetition; Isle of Dogs really is peak Wes Anderson!
Few directors have such a unique and wonderful visual stamp on their movies as Wes Anderson, and Isle of Dogs is simply gorgeous to look at. Each shot is so intricate, so detailed, so painstakingly created, put together, and shot. It would be hard enough for a director to create such gorgeous visual consistency, let alone in a stop-motion animated film, but somehow he pulls it off. After the delightfully kooky Fantastic Mr Fox – Anderson’s first foray into stop-motion – proved, his eye for detail and perfect visuals work so perfectly with this animation art form that it will make you wish all movies were created in this way.
Every frame of this film could be a piece of art, and the focus on the finer details is particularly wonderful. It is the sort of film which demands multiple watches; mostly because it is so much fun, but also because you’ll need it in order to spot everything. This film is quintessential Wes Anderson, as twee, off-kilter, wacky, and wondrous as you’d expect.
The impressive voice cast rolled on like a never-ending drum line in the trailers, and they are utilised perfectly within the film. Of course there’s all the Anderson staples, and the Japanese and American cast blended together seamlessly. The voices of the dogs were particularly great; Cranston’s unique vocals seemed just made for the world-weary dog he portrayed. To bring a uniqueness to each character, considering the vastness of the cast, is no easy feat, but it felt like everyone who needed to have their moment got it, and no one was pushed aside.
The score, from frequent Anderson-collaborator Alexandre Desplat, is also wonderful. As well as traditional drumming and choral sounds, there is a sense of fun and adventure to the soundtrack with interspersed songs and a playfulness that works perfectly. Nodding very deliberately in the direction of the films that have influenced Isle of Dogs, the score also perfectly utilises excerpts from Akira Kurosawa’s classics, Seven Samurai and Drunken Angels. This is a fantastic nugget for the cinephiles, and is just one of the many reasons why this isn’t a children’s film!
It is now one of my favourite Anderson films, but I surprisingly didn’t like Fantastic Mr Fox upon first watch because I went into it expecting a kids film rather than expecting a Wes Anderson film. Foolish I know, but my second watch proved me entirely wrong and I loved it so much it quickly climbed the ranks in my favourite Wes Anderson films. Isle of Dogs sense of humour is definitely cut from the same cloth as Fantastic Mr Fox, and whilst being marketed alongside the other kids animated offerings, I struggle to see how this film would hold a child’s attention. This isn’t a criticism at all because obviously I loved it, but parents go into it prepared that there’s gags about dogs being in heat, references to suicide, and scenes of dogs getting their ears bitten off.
It is a simple enough narrative in many ways – a boy searching for his lost dog – so there is something universally appealing in that, but it is always worth knowing that you’re going into this getting a Wes Anderson film, through and through!
I saw this movie and you should too. I simply adored this film and cannot wait to see it again. Wes Anderson is an actual genius in my eyes and for fans, this is a treat that you cannot miss. This may be amongst his more accessible films as well so hopefully it will turn a new audience onto his back catalogue as well. Isle of Dogs is a visual treat, full of fun, charm, and wit, with an impressive voice cast and some of the most beautifully constructed shots I’ve ever seen in a film. Unmissable.