sleep. Clowns will eat me.
for those days when that was your worst fear. Instead, we've
got terrorist attacks, bioterrorist attacks, ecoterrorist
attacks and cineterrorist attacks to worry about. If we
accept the premise behind the tense but muddled The Invasion,
all we really need to do is go to sleep and everything will
The fourth adaptation of Jack Finney's
novel The Bodysnatchers, this Nicole Kidman vehicle
limps along with a bizarre pedigree, and it has to be cited
to understand just why this movie feels so at odds with
itself. Credited director Oliver Hirschbiegel allegedly
turned in a cerebral think-piece short on action, so producer
Joel Silver brought in his favorite ringers, The Wachowski
Brothers, to amp up the volume on it.
That wouldn't necessarily be bad; after
all, they did once give us a high-octane action film that
still made us question the nature of reality. But somewhere
in the writing, either theirs or that of Dave Kajganich,
somebody typed with hands of finest honey-baked ham.
Each time Finney's book has been filmed,
it has been seen as a metaphor for its time. Here it's hard
to focus on what criticism exactly is being leveled. Our
heroine, psychiatrist Carol Bennell, strives mightily to
make sure that her patients (and her son) are well-adjusted,
non-violent citizens, freely dispensing medication to achieve
her goals. Yet when faced with an alien take-over that turns
everyone into well-adjust, non-violent citizens, she has
Too conveniently, perhaps, her ex-husband
is one of the first victims of the spores - a change from
the traditional pod-person thing that reflects more modern
anxieties. As the ex Tucker Kaufman (Jeremy Northam) says,
becoming an alien now is "…as easy as catching a cold."
Not only do we prey upon bird flu hysteria,
Kaufman happens to be high up in the CDC. That makes his
vaccine for a new strain of flu actually full of alien vomit
that allows for the take-over, so…we can't trust bacteria
and we can't trust our government, because they want us
all to turn into sheep.
heavens aliens can't paint over walls.
Okay, so I think I've nailed down the metaphor.
Except the army actually does know what's going on and is
actively working against the CDC for a cure. It turns out
that some people do have a resistance due to a certain earlier
illness. Be grateful that nobody drives a tripod that just
stops dead as the aliens succumb to a cold.
In case we miss anything else, the script
also gives us Russian ambassador Yorish (Roger Rees), who
argues that without violence and aggression, a human is
not a human. Actually, the scene that comes from has quite
a bit of snappy repartee and food for thought, but it's
an oasis of tidy intellectualism in a film that keeps sprouting
little idea threads and leaves them just messily frayed.
The strongest thread lost would be that
for a non-violent and presumably non-emotional society,
the invaders turn to violence quite easily. They also claim
to be one big unity, but they can't tell if you've become
one of them unless you betray emotion.
If Northam's character is any indication,
they're also pretty petulant. But that's also a pacing problem.
We barely get to know his character before the change; all
real information about his personality comes from Kidman.
He even apparently has a girlfriend (Malin Akerman) that
never gets referenced past her first harp on him, but seems
to hover nearby after assimilation.
Yet the film, whoever should be credited,
musters up its fair share of tension. A constant use of
jump cuts and a few flash forwards keep the audience off-balance.
Cheap tricks, perhaps, but they work, as it's hard to focus
on whether or not someone is acting normal, or just giving
off the reflexive benign smile of one of the Sciento - er,
the "who can be creepier" contest...
It's also driven by some very fine actors.
Though Kidman has a tendency to go breathy when assuming
an American accent, she plays a fierce protective mother
with conviction. Bringing his shaggy masculinity, Daniel
Craig skates through as the concerned neighbor/best friend/wannabe
boyfriend, allowed to keep his native accent.
Just when you thought no American actors
could play Americans anymore, Jeffrey Wright pops up. Nobody,
but nobody, plays ambivalent self-righteousness like him,
but even better, his character doesn't need to be convinced
that an invasion is going on. He's a vaguely defined scientist
fully accepting of what he's seen.
Though it robs the film of some tension,
it is a neat twist that nobody questions that an invasion
is going on. Random people appear that have figured out
how to hide in plain sight, at least for a while, and the
military immediately recognizes the aliens for what they
of good things could have been at play here, but the final
product just doesn't add up. Maybe on home video we'll get
to see the pre-Wachowski version, but even then, you're
still better off renting the 1978 version (linked here by
the presence of Veronica Cartwright) or the truly creepy