In the process of researching a mysterious alien epidemic that’s changing the nature of human behavior, a Washington, D.C., psychiatrist (Nicole Kidman) learns that her son (Jackson Bond) might be the planet’s only hope for survival. Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam and Veronica Cartwright round out the supporting cast in director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s supernatural thriller that’s tinged with political undercurrents.
D: Oliver Hirschbiegel, James McTeigue, some others…
C: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam, Jeffrey Wright
Second time’s a charm!
(unfortunately this is the fourth time around.)
In 1955, 4 years after Robert Heinlein’s alien invasion masterpiece The Puppet Masters was published, Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers came out and was an instant success. Wasting no time, the movie version was released one year later, immediately becoming a cult classic, and for good reason. It featured Kevin Mcarthy as Dr. Bennell, becoming ever so wary of imposter reports, and Dana Wynter as Elisabeth Driscoll joining up in the fight against those people of the pod. Both book and film proved to be ultimately effective due to timing, what with communism and McCarthyism (not Kevin) such a…..popular topic at the time. That said, director and star of the original film have always stood firm saying that it’s nothing more than a movie about pod people.
In 1978, director Philip Kaufman unleashed the mother of all pod movies with his installment of Invasion of the Body Snatchers , achieving the rare feat of a remake outdoing the already fantastic original. This time Donald Sutherland stars as Matthew Bennell (a public health inspector here) and Brooke Adams as Elisabeth Driscoll. The basic story elements are there, and our hero’s are up the same creek without the proper tools. Sutherland turns in a terrific performance as he and Adams have very good chemistry together, and the movie cranks it up a notch as it provides a wonderfully creepy atmosphere to go along with the feeling of hopelessness as you very willingly follow and root for the characters in this piece. Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and Leonard Nimoy also star.
1993 brought us a different take on body snatching, which was to be expected with Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers . This version bears little resemblance to the first two, with the aliens this time cloning humans on a U.S military base. A worthwhile attempt I suppose, but the cast is awkward, and the film’s setting and script remove all the creature comforts and familiarities of everyday life, making it alien to it’s viewers from the start, and not allowing it to hit home as the subject matter should.
This brings us to 2007’s The Invasion . When a space shuttle crashes on Earth, an extraterrestrial disease begins infecting humans. In this version, our Bennell (Nicole Kidman) is a psychiatrist who slowly realizes that people aren’t what they seem to be, and that her ex-husband, the first of the infectees, probably wasn’t the best person to leave her son with. She enlists the help of her doctor friend Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig), and his doctor friend Stephen Galeano (Jeffrey Wright), to fight the forces of those without emotion. From there your storyline is basically Dr. Bennell trying to find her son, keep her son from going bad, and raising her son in a healthy environment.
With at least 4 people being credited in having a hand in aiming the film somewhere, it predictably ends up all over the place trying to be many things and achieving zero, leaving it as the prime imposter. From Hirschbiegel at the original helm, to the Wachowski brothers being brought in to try and make sense of his “vision,” to McTeigue trying to wrap this ball of filth up, the thing never really stood a chance.
And from the second this movie starts it can’t get out of it’s own way. Within the first 5 minutes of the thing you get the nonsensical opening, the goofy discovery, and a scene of some seriously unimportant young woman stripping down to her undies so she can wash her face. The highlight for most, I’m sure, but I would have thought that the dough forked over to our leading lady (who also strips down to the bare necessities to wash her face) was enough to make a scene like this unnecessary. Better safe than sorry!
Told in a kind of half-assed, very occasionally nonlinear way, The Invasion does it’s best to play up suspense that isn‘t there, and smack you over the head with plot devices that are dispensable in the first place. We’ve also skipped over the middle man and done away with pods all together, spreading the infection this time by having an alien barf up green stuff on a person’s face. Normally I’m all for that, but in this movie it comes off as just another example of confused movie by committee. A committee that has never met one another.
Whether or not the original film is political in meaning, which has been heavily debated to this day, is part of it’s beauty. You can make that decision if you so choose. The Invasion makes certain it slams you in the face with it’s messages constantly throughout.
Kidman unconvincingly sails through the movie with her breathless ways doing very little, making one wonder why she would be at all against joining an alien race not very much unlike her performance. Daniel Craig gives a very likable turn as Ben Driscoll, although it only serves to frustrate as he’s just not on screen enough to make this trip worthwhile. Jeremy Northam phones in his part (on a bad line) as Bennell’s ex-husband, and the first to come into real contact with the virus. Veronica Cartwright (of the fab four from the 1978 film) makes a short, yet significant appearance as a patient of the good doctor who knows her husband has changed.
As frightening as Earth Girls are Easy, The Invasion is to be skipped.
And to be quite honest, if an alien race were looking for reasons to wipe out the human race, films like this are a good start.
I certainly wouldn’t blame them.