REVIEW: The Invasion [2007]

“Civilization is an illusion, a game of pretend”

Why do Hollywood producers set their sights on a talented European director, get them to film one of their scripts, and then subsequently throw it away while hiring one of their own to helm reshoots and change the entire movie? First you dump all your cash on an artistic vision and then you grow scared that the public won’t get it and therefore won’t pay to see it. So, here is a smart move, lets spend even more money to redo what you just paid for and make a piece of trash that people really won’t go and see. You’d probably end up making more profits by just releasing what you think is a failure rather than drain the bank even drier. Unfortunately for Oliver Hirschbiegel, director of the Oscar nominated Downfall, this is exactly the case. Credit him for being civil and saying that the Wachowski brothers and their ward James McTeigue had good points to offer for enhancing the tale. Still, though, just the fact that he didn’t shoot the retakes himself tells that he was unceremoniously dumped from the project. There is no way to tell at the moment whether Hirschbiegel’s version of The Invasion, from last year, would have been a masterpiece, but, this hodgepodge out now surely is not. The real kicker is that I enjoyed it much more than I probably should have. I like to think that I have Oliver to thank for that.

The film itself is of course a new adaptation of the novel The Body Snatchers. An alien lifeform has come to Earth, begins to inhabit the humans, and transforms them during their sleep into a being without emotion. Maybe it is because I am reading Atlas Shrugged at the moment, or because the novel was written after World War II, but the tale has a pretty overt anti-Communism bent. There are many moments speaking of how conflict is human nature and that once our world becomes peaceful and serene, we then cease to be human. This is quite obvious when the leader of the aliens talks of how war has stopped and peace treaties are being signed everywhere. These pod-people have no anger or fear and therefore are able to coexist peacefully, but what is the point of living unafraid when you can’t ever be happy or joyful in that tranquility? The people who have been taken over have now become a collective, out to convert all those different from them. They live together for the good of the group, while the “capitalists” strive for feeling and emotion and life to be lived. The real interesting thing, though, while being anti-Communist, it is also pro-war. This is a rare thing nowadays in film. When Iraq and Darfur are mentioned here, it is to show how the aliens have alleviated these problems. In effect, the bad guys have stopped the war that our heroes have started. Fascinating to think about.

Since the story is known by most people alive today, it has been made into film so many times, we need to talk about the artistry of what is onscreen. This film is definitely a mixed bag. Like so many hijacked works, there are many instances of cutting that appear awkward and choppy. Whether a weird tonal shift or a huge jump in time, it feels as though someone laid all the footage taken and hacked and slapped it together to try and keep coherence by using the thriller aspects of Hirschbiegel’s stock with the action sequences of McTeigue. Lets just say that this is annoying and makes you realize you are witnessing a movie, never letting you soak completely into the tale. With that said, someone did an amazing job with editing nonetheless. Sprinkled in with the disjointedness are moments of genius—a splicing of past, present, and future in a single vignette. I’ve seen this trick used before, the film eludes me now, and I love it. While our stars talk about what they must do, we see flashes of past instances, which led to their thought process, along with flashes of how they actually do what they are discussing. We then get the planning, the thinking, and the execution all at once for what is an exhilarating experience. Credit to either Hirschbiegel or McTeigue for that bit of artistry, whomever was responsible.

When all is said and done, though, the film is really just a slight actioner that tries to thrill. It is a bit of a headcase, never quite knowing what kind of film it wants to be and as a result can never be a success. I applaud Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam, and especially Jeffrey Wright for not choosing to phone in their performances, but instead take their roles seriously. As for Nicole Kidman, I can’t say the same. While the cinematography is wonderful throughout, always on eye level and always in close-up, I almost wish it weren’t. While in any other film I would thoroughly enjoy non-stop Kidman, here it just doesn’t work. The whole Meg Ryan/collagen lip thing is very unattractive, and her voice is annoying. Whether it’s the lips or the whispered voice to disguise her accent, it is just plain bad. While she gets better as the film continues, the early scenes are atrocious. When the camera cuts to her while seeing a patient, her expression is total fake doctor pretending to care about your troubles for as long as needed until I can write you a prescription. She plays a psychiatrist like the kind of stereotype that her ex-husband hates. Maybe some Scientology Tom Cruise rubbed off on her because she makes the occupation out to be a joke, even to the point where she decides to solve problems with more meds. Her look of interest is amateurish and never natural. Tom must be proud.

I hope that one day we get to see the original film so that we can decide for ourselves which is best. Until then, though, The Invasion is highly the stuff of style over substance. While the beginning is great at throwing us directly into the story without any background into the space mission or anything, the story almost moves at too brisk of a pace to allow the audience time to sink in and ready themselves for the journey. I enjoy not being catered to, but I also like it when the story knows what it is that it wants to accomplish.

The Invasion 5/10 | ★ ★

photography:
[1] NICOLE KIDMAN stars as Carol and DANIEL CRAIG stars as Ben in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ suspense thriller “The Invasion,” distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Photo by Peter Sorel
[2] NICOLE KIDMAN stars as Carol in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ suspense thriller “The Invasion,” distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film also stars Daniel Craig. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

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