© 2007 Ray Wong
Loosely based on Jack Finney's novel and the sci-fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the new film tells of a familiar story of alien abduction with a shot of social commentary.
After the space shuttle crashed on Earth, CDC director Tucker Kaufman (Jeremy Northam) is notified of the alien life-form on the shuttle's remnants. His ex-wife, Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman), is a psychiatrist living in Washington, D.C. with her son Oliver (Jackson Bond). As a strange flu sweeps across the globe, Carol begins to notice strange behaviors in people around her. They're disconnected and emotionless, sometimes hostile.
Tucker returns to D.C. and asks to see his son. Carol reluctantly obliges and leaves Oliver with Tucker. When Carol discovers a strange biological mutation, she sends a sample to her physician colleagues Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig) and Stephen Galeano (Jeffrey Wright) for investigation. They identify it as an alien organism that attacks the human body, especially the neurons in the brain cells. The organism replicates and takes over during the infected person's REM sleep cycle. Once taken over, the human hosts would appear normal physically, retaining all their memories and knowledge, and yet they would have no control over their thoughts and action.
Tucker initiates a nationwide inoculation to control the spread of the "flu" but more and more people become infected. Carol realizes that Tucker has been infected and her son is in danger. She also realizes that her son may be key to finding a cure. Meanwhile, the infected are out there killing the uninfected. Carol must race against time to save herself and her son, in hope to help the research team in finding a cure.
Nicole Kidman (Fur) is intense and likable as the heroine. Driven by her maternal instinct, she delivers a believable, if somewhat typical, performance. Daniel Craig (Casino Royale) is solid as her colleague and love interest. He adds some warmth to the story as his affection for Kidman's character is evident.
Jeremy Northam (The Payback) is wonderfully creepy as Carol's ex. Unfortunately, he doesn't show enough personality difference before the infection to make us really care about his character. Basically, it's a one-dimensional character all set up to the villain. Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale) is amiable as Dr. Galeano, but his role is too peripheral to make a real impact. Jackson Bond (Dead of Winter) is very good as Oliver, without a lot of exaggerated emoting or overacting.
The screenplay by newcomer Dave Kajganich is taut and suspenseful. He sets up a quick prologue to foreshadow what has to come (although I may argue that such a "thrilling" set up is not necessary -- the film could have started with the space shuttle crash), and then skillfully unfolds the plot. The buildup is rather effective and creates good tension, even though we know what to expect. Unfortunately, there are moments that stretch credibility, and the plot is rather linear. It would be more interesting had there been a subplot or two. By the second half of the film, the plot becomes predictable. Also, Kajganich hasn't spent enough time developing the characters -- what we know about them are very shallow -- so, apart from Carol and Oliver, we can't really relate to them and so we don't necessarily care what happens to these people.
German director Oliver Hirshbiegel (Experiment, Das) makes his American directorial debut with precise execution. There is enough suspense and thrills to do justice to the genre. The action is tight and the production value good. Yet, as a sci-fi horror, the science fiction part is rather flimsy, and the horror part is somewhat tame. The film could have done more to scare us with its socio-political themes, but it falls short in that regard. It touches on the context superficially by way of a soviet diplomat (played by Roger Rees) and ends with a haunting voiceover about humanity. Perhaps the filmmakers realize they're not making a socially significant movie -- it is, after all, a commercial thriller.
With that in mind, Invasion is solid entertainment, and should have no problem making an invasion into your video library some day.
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam, Jackson Bond, Jeffrey Wright, Veronica Cartwright
Directors: Oliver Hirschbiegel, James McTeigue
Writers: David Kajganich (based on Jack Finney's novel The Body Snatchers)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total – 7.4 out of 10