– Summary –
Director : Oliver Hirschbiegel
Cast : Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeffrey Wright, Jeremy Northam, Jackson Bond, Veronica Cartwright, Josef Sommer, Celia Weston, Malin Ackerman.
Year of Release : 2007
Length : 120 Minutes
Synopsis: Alien spores come to Earth on the back of a crashed Space Shuttle, and begin to infect humanity with surprising speed. One woman, one man, and one child must find a way to survive the holocaust.
Review : Not nearly as interesting as you think it would be. Slow burn thiller is hampered by a silly script and a sense of deja vu, which makes it contrived, unoriginal, and uninteresting. Should have been a lot better.
Plagued by shooting difficulties, The Invasion is a modern take on the original sci-fi classic, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, filmed in the 50’s. Like most modern remakes of old films or television series, oftentimes they will not suit a modern audience the second time around, as times change and progress is made, the old problems of the 50’s are brushed aside quite easily by our current technology.
Of course, filmmakers have to revise the original idea, polish it and refine it until it is suitable for modern audiences, and that is what director Oliver Hirschbiegel, German director of quite heavy films such as The Experiment and Downfall, attempted to do. Did he succeed? Well, in terms of scientifically explaining the alien virus that takes people over, then yes, he succeeded. Did he succeed with the storytelling? Well, probably not. Research indicates Australian director James McTeigue (V For Vendetta) was called in by the studio after initial screenings didn’t go over so well, to reshoot certain scenes to give the film a greater sense of urgency, and to add new scenes as well. Whether this studio interference was to the detriment of the film or not, The Invasion is still a mildly enthralling sci-fi thriller in the vein of The Astronaut’s Wife, a similarly themed film starring Johnny Depp. It’s hard to see where any changes or adjustments have been made, and an alternative version is not readily available, so I can only base my thoughts on the film based on the final version available to the public.
The Invasion stars Nicole Kidman and current Bond Daniel Craig, alongside fellow Bond alumnus Jeffrey Wright, in a story about humanity on the brink of destruction by a strange, space-borne fungus (I think) that takes over people once they fall into REM sleep. Kidman plays a psychologist, while Craig plays her boyfriend doctor. Wright, in a phone in role, is a scientist who uncovers the true secret of the alien plague.
Hirschbiegel went on record as saying he wanted to make minimal use of special effects in this film, and it’s easy to see why he would say so. The actual invasion is nothing like “mad aliens from outer space” akin to Mars Attacks! or War of the Worlds, no, this is subtly different. Instead of giant world destroying alien ships, these aliens come to Earth on board our own spacecraft (the Space Shuttle), which crashes to earth in the opening frames in scenes disturbingly familiar to those who lived through any of the real Space Shuttle Disasters. Once on Earth, of course, it takes very little time for human stupidity to place us all in danger, and things to escalate out of control until a cure can be found. There are no green laser beams here. No Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum setting off a nuke in the heart of an almighty mothership. No “unlock cargo bay door’s HAL” in this flick. Instead, it’s a slow burn thriller as Kidman races to find her son, who, through a series of utterly logical events gets separated from her as the human race is slowly taken over by the spores.
While the human race doesn’t face actual extinction in this instance, it does face a future under the thrall of microbes from another world, something the current state of humanity seems to feel isn’t too far from being a possibility. The film tries to play on our fears of infection, of a loss of control over our own bodies as we take precautions to prevent superbugs from spreading across the globe. The allegory towards society’s breakdown in the event of a pandemic, epidemic, or world-wide catastrophe of this magnitude is played out as realistically as possible.
The question asked here is simply thus: would you prefer to be alive and under the control of an alien species, or dead and not?
How does the direction hold up, as Hirschbiegel takes on his first major studio film in Hollywood? Honestly, the film is shot quite well, although when it comes to action scenes, it falls flat. Energetically limp, the action moves quickly from one moment to the next, seemingly as though by rote, as if the script went from being a psychological form of water torture to a ballsy, car-ridden chase sequence by a studio determined to save a sinking ship. Heck, if it’s boring, throw in a few meaningless and fruitless car chases, they might not make sense but they sure as heck will be exciting, wont they? Nope.
The screenplay is attributed to the Wachowski Brothers, they of The Matrix films fame. How they let this one go out their door like this is beyond me, but no doubt they had high hopes for the success of the film. Unfortunately, the old smell of studio interference comes about as characterization goes out the window for good old fashioned car chases and gunfire.
Kidmans’ efforts before the cameras are again excellent, but as with so many of her films, I find her unfulfilling as an actress in big budget concepts like this. Films such as Birth and To Die For are perhaps more suited to her screen persona. Her appearance in The Peacemaker should have been enough to ensure she never made an action film again. Her screen chemistry simply will not hold up under that much scrutiny.
Daniel Craig is confusing as her boyfriend (at least, I think that’s what he was, the script never made it quite clear…) who goes from being an utter ignoramus on the whole situation to a total know-it-all in about half a page of dialogue, which will confuse even the most liberal viewer. His characters sudden grasp on the situation borders on ludicrous, and I found that when he suddenly became a bit-time action hero type, his credibility as a character went out the window. Craig plays it with as straight a face as possible, under the circumstances, but the tone of the film prior to the explosions predicated a certain level of restraint that comes undone once the guns come out.
While the premise is actually quite simple, the execution is not, and the film is utterly lumbered with misdirection and a strange sense of “but it all looked so good on paper” wonderment. The Invasion could have been a razor sharp indictment on how we see those who are sick, some kind of examination on the effects an outbreak of a real live disease might affect us (in the same way Outbreak did) but unfortunately, this was not achieved. The films ending, which I have to say could rank as perhaps the single greatest anticlimax ever in the history of cinema, was like watching a great directors career spiral into a jet engine in a single moment. You could almost feel the studio exec’s looking at this and then each other, wondering what kind of fancy German joke it all was.
The Invasion is not as bad as you may have heard it described, but it’s certainly no great shakes either, and while you’ll probably enjoy the first half, after a while it descends rapidly into a shambles of chases, violence and stupidity that leaves a bitter aftertaste in your mouth. Probably best to watch this one during the day, when the footy isn’t on.