The Invasion

The Invasion

Film review by: Witney Seibold

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            Body snatching is one of those sci-fi conceits that will always be with us, as it taps into some of our more basic fears. What if the people you know and love continue to look the same, but become secretly malevolent? Or what if your own body was invaded by an outside force, and your personality undergoes a startling change that you seem to have no control over. These are fine and scary concepts. The body snatching conceit has been used in many films and even more television shows. It’s a regular staple of the “Star Trek” universe. It’s often used as a sociopolitical allegory (Communism/conformity in the 1950s, drug culture in the 1970s, adolescence/teen sexuality in the 1990s), and it’s responsible for some of the best sci-fi films, as well as some of the worst.

 

            “The Invasion” leans more toward the latter.

 

            To clarify, “The Invasion” is a taut thriller. The chases are tense, and the slow takeover of the populous by an alien spore is effective. The music (by John Ottman) is excellent, and the performances are more maligned than they should be; Daniel Craig can’t help but be good, and Nicole Kidman does not do her ice queen shtick as has been commonly spread. The story is familiar, but not horribly so… But “The Invasion” is still not very good.

 

            The story: A virus from space lands on Earth on the back of a crashed space shuttle. It soon mysteriously infects everyone nearby, including powerful scientist Tucker (Jeremy Northam), ex-husband of a powerful New York shrink named Sharon (Kidman). A few of Sharon’s patients soon begin complaining about their relatives not being who they are (Veronica Cartwright chief among them). Tucker then starts asking to babysit his and Sharon’s son Oliver (Jackson Bond) more often than usual. Yup, something’s fishy alright. Sharon asks two of her doctor buddies (Craig and Jeffrey Wright) to look into the thing, and they discover that the virus has been subjugating people’s minds, snatching bodies, etc. Sharon must hide emotion, protect her son, and avoid going to sleep (as that’s when the virus will take over her mind). Oh, and people are infected by vomit, so be prepared to watch a lot of facial barfing.

 

            Had “The Invasion” stuck to being a straightforward thriller, it would have been a fine one. Not revolutionary, but passable. It’s when the film starts to inject political allegory into its story that it starts to feel, well, stupid. News reports show that the rest of the world is signing peace accords. The Iraq war ends, and the Israeli/Palestinian stuff neatly draws to a close. The aliens, the film suggests, are so calm and emotionless that war will cease to exist. So what is the film saying, that horrible and expensive quagmires are intrinsic to our nature? That we must fight to keep them going as signs of our humanity? That’s it’s better to have wars and humanity than peace and alien intelligence? That’s not a very good message. How does the Iraq war symbolize our triumph as a species? Or is the film trying to strike against the Fox News conformity of media hype? It’s never made very clear.

 

            And, to make matters worse, the film has some of the poorest editing I’ve seen in a mainstream thriller. I suppose the editors were trying to salvage a bad production (the director was reportedly changed halfway through from credited Oliver Hirschbiegel to uncredited James McTiegue), but made some weird choices anyway. A few times throughout “The Invasion,” we cut to a chase scene before the previous scene was really finished, and then cut back to the unfinished scene to give more exposition, then back to the chase again. I think it’s supposed to stretch the tension, but it only stretched my patience.

             Instead of watching “The Invasion,” track down the original Jack Finney novel, put on John Ottman’s score, read the book, and you’ll have a better time.

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Published in: on September 4, 2007 at 9:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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