The Invasion is the fourth adaptation of Jack Finney’s classic novel “The Body Snatchers”. It takes on a lot of the same structure and rhythms as Phillip Kauffman’s 1978 re-telling Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as a small group of people (Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jackson Bond & Jeffrey Wright) must contend with an alien virus as society (as they know it) crumbles around them.
The movie begins interestingly enough with Kidman’s psychiatrist Dr. Carol Bennell frantically trying to stay awake by popping pills while choking down Mountain Dew. It then backtracks with a space shuttle mysteriously crash landing on Earth killing everyone on board, but also bringing with it an alien organism which slowly turns mankind into pod people.
Almost 30 years down the line , The Invasion draws upon many of the same motivations (fear of authority, corrupt government, unpopular war) as its 1970’s predecessor, and the story has been told so many times that there are hardly any surprises, only a change of date. In a thought provoking twist, screenwriter Dave Kajganich and director Oliver Hirschbiegel (who helmed the excellent 2004 war movie Downfall) provides an intriguing backdrop as warring nations - all under the spell of the intergalactic virus – sign peace treaties, insuring harmony around the world. It brings up a number of interesting questions: to secure peace on Earth, does one have to be less than human? Does free will stand in the way of unity?
However, as quickly as these questions are asked, the film begins to suffer under the strain of extensive re-shoots, as the films producers (unhappy with Hirschbiegel’s final cut) bring in V for Vendetta combo James McTeigue and The Wachowski Brothers to add more excitement to the proceedings. In turn, the film becomes a jerky sci-fi thriller which unexpectedly switches gears from drama, to action, to mystery, insuring a poor flow in the process. There are some nice shocks to be had ( a scene involving Kidman and a midnight caller is a highlight), but not enough to stop viewers from falling asleep, which is ironic considering that staying awake is an essential plot point for Kidman’s character.
As mentioned before Kidman plays a psychiatrist, who are not the most sympathetic of characters due to their egotistical nature, and Kidman plays the role with ice cold, inquisitive precision proving that she is a great actress despite being box office poison. Kidman’s equally talented co-stars – Daniel Craig & Jeffrey Wright – are wasted as neither is given enough screen time nor sufficient material to provide compelling performances.
Perhaps more focus on their characters would have made for a much better film. The casting of Veronica Cartwright only serves of a reminder of how good Philip Kauffman’s 1978 version was, and suggest watching that movie instead of this promising yet ultimately flat film.