Undermarked Oversights: The Invasion

Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel, Runtime: 99 minutes
Grade: B-

Two’s company, three’s a crowd for most cinephiles devout to the Invasion of the Body Snatchers story. Lightning struck a second time in 1978 when the remake of the original ‘50s adaptation of Jack Finney’s socio-snarky sci-fi novel hit. Prospects looked high for another spin of the tale, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig under the direction of Downfall maestro Oliver Hershbiegel -- which soon transformed into a project taken over by V for Vendetta director James McTeigue. There’s treachery afoot, which explains for the drastic shift in tones near the end of the flick.

It's a story done many times over: alien bio-organisms fall to earth and begin infecting the population. A group of people fight against the spread of this disease, led by several scientifically minded individuals like physician Ben (Daniel Craig, Layer Cake) and single mother psyciatrist Carol (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!). They fight to save their own lives, preserve the life of one of the main character's children, and struggle to discover a way to reverse the disease that is plaguing the neurological fonctuinality of their societal sprawl.

Response to The Invasion was lackluster at best, as critical malice spread quickly to horror fans and star-watchers alike faster than the film’s alien virus itself. Surprisingly, after a recent viewing, I saw through many of the negative veils and scabs caked on top of it and found an intriguing film. Compared to its preceding influences, it could be considered a foible, but many critics and audience members looked passed some rather potent assets that help to piece together a flawed yet feral horror / sci-fi nerve-grabber.

There’s no denying that The Invasion’s editing style flickers and clips backwards and forwards with enough annoying brashness to make your eyes twitch in hysteria, no matter your approval level. You know that clever cutting-room technique that features two settings -- a simple, calm setting that usually features a conversation or moment of thought, and a subsequent series of actions that visualize the “topic at hand" -- clipped together to flash between the two in an explicative and meaningful fashion. The Invasion takes this mechanic and does it to death, making nearly every other scene an exercise in keeping track of the spliced narrative.

Kidman and Craig do little to really boost up the cluttered cinematic flow of this borrowed-tale-of-a-borrowed-tale to new heights, though their performances do provide a dash of spice over blandness in the acting department. Especially Kidman who, though expressing stone-like features at many points, handles several scenes where she must project apathy through bloodshot frustration with surprising strength. To say the least, you never really forget that Craig is Craig and Kidman is Kidman, but that’s not all that dreadful considering the projection of their naturally striking carriages.

Even down to the rudiments of the “body snatcher” formula, we’re working with capably-rendered characters; the married lady who introduces us to the prospect of danger through a complaint about her husband’s mood, the young boy who, though in danger, doesn’t understand the science and gravity behind the situation, and the stalwart scientist who discovers the core reasoning behind the infection – all support the wild pins-and-needles science-based tension admirably. Scientifically speaking, I rather liked diving into the mechanics lying underneath this body-controlling alien invasion. Jeffrey Wright, a rising star in Hollywood sparked by fluid character efforts in Syriana and Casino Royale, verbalizes the little intricacies of the science that, surprisingly, don’t make you want to throw your hands in the air and curse the fallibility of it all.

This ushers in discussion about the possession of America’s citizens, a key theme in Invasion, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Finney’s novel, et al. There’s a key scene in the film where Kidman’s character, playing the stoic non-infected human role as she’s surrounded by many “conquered” people, strains her piercing red-eyed emotions as she witnesses a couple commit public suicide by falling from a roof. An emotional woman cries out as Kidman’s character plugs along. The entirety of The Invasion is an allegory of conditioning and desensitization in society, especially in America.

It becomes much more blunt and forthcoming about its thematic intentions as it complicates -- something it must do to land some form of thoughtfulness in its 95-minute time -- which makes it a very “digest and continue on” mechanic. Whether the suicide was a plot by the “pod people” isn’t revealed, yet a certain competence behind the scripting of the alien force’s resolve would lead me to believe it. What's great about the ambiguity of this infection's significance is the assumed reasoning behind it all, which builds off of the "peace / love / flaccidness" flawed ideal. It even builds an environment thick enough to accentuate the fluctuating dynamic

It’s nowhere near the bubble of substantial achievement in cinema, but the struggling thrice-adapted exercise in eerie population consummation isn’t nearly as bad as some postured critics liked to doll it up to be. Purists will not favor its alterations, for sure, but when taken with a peeled-off layer of slimy alien skin (topical grain of salt remodel, my apologies) The Invasion really lathers up its viewers with tingling, tension-mounting terror void of gore and gross-outs -- aside from some rather nauseating usage of its vomit-spore transfer tactics. Plus, it admirably tacks on the omnipresent individuality / duality conundrum that could potentially eliminate conflict and parasitism by way of sacrificing individuality for a blithe symbiotic existence. Not too shabby for an hour-and-a-half thrillride through other-worldy biological domination.


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