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The Invasion

The latest

Invasion

begins with a shuttle crash landing on earth. Rumors leak that the shuttle someone may have been trying to deliberately crash it. As the debris from teh crash is inspected, scientists discover what might have been the reason for this bizarre act. There are peculiar and particularly resilient spores/cells on the shuttle debris. The area is quarantined but soon people are coming down with a strange flu. People are urged to go in for vaccinations but that doesn't prevent what seems to be an epidemic.

But there's something else going on as well. Psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman) has a patient (Veronica Cartwright, a clever piece of casting since she played a similar role in the 1978 version) who says that her husband isnt her husband anymore. Then at a friends house, Bennell notices the woman's son acting oddly distant. And on the street, Bennell notices people going about their business with a dazed sense of routine. With the help of her physician friend (Daniel Craig making his first post-Bond appearance), Bennell slowly discovers that the tiny alien spores or cells are causing bizarre genetic transformations that threaten to destroy humanity.

Nicole Kidman starts to suspect there's something wrong in The Invasion (WB)

Hirschbiegel (who is making his first film in English) apparently had some disputes with the studio over the cut of the film so Im not sure if all the decisions about story and style were made by him. In any case, the film fails to distinguish itself in any way, and if you're going to remake a classic you better have a good reason or suffer the consequences. There's a little innovation in the way the aliens take over the humans this time out. The alien virus spreads like AIDS through an exchange of fluids, and this taps into the recent fears about AIDS, SARS and a feared flu pandemic. It also allows the film to tap into fears about the government administering vaccines since some people worry that vaccines are more dangerous than the disease. These latest tiny aliens turn their human hosts into cocoons from which emerge the emotionless alien clones. But that's about all that proves interesting. The film also takes a similar tact as 28 Weeks Later by suggesting that there might be people out there who are immune to the "virus." The basic premise of this alien takeover still has an inherent creepiness to it but Hirschbiegel (whose German hits were Das Experiment and The Downfall ) doesn't know how to exploit it.

The film also begins with a frantically paced opening scene that's actually from near the end of the film. The filmmakers seem to worry that a slower start might lose the audience so the film begins with Bennell desperately trying to stay awake since the genetic transformation can only occur during REM sleep. The rapid, flash forward cutting creates a false sense of tension and pace, and Hirschbiegel relies on this technique repeatedly but without making the stylistic choice an effective device.

A film like Shaun of the Dead (pardon me for plugging my favorite film of recent years yet again), despite its comic tendencies, actually did a better job of creating that sense of the world transforming. When Shaun takes a quick jaunt to the shop one morning, we see the neighborhood in normal mode, then after the zombie takeover, Shaun fails to notice all the bizarre changes as the dead continue to perform their daily routines in their undead state. But when Bennell makes a similar pair of walks through her neighborhood, we feel no impact. In fact we barely notice a change. Shaun of the Dead was also clever enough to make a point of showing us how many people already seemed to be going through life like mindless zombies so to an extent there's not much of a change when they become undeadaside of course from the whole flesh eating thing. The Invasion might have been better served if Hirschbiegel had a similar social message in mind. I couldnt tell if he was trying to point out like Shaun that little had changed or that when Bennell makes that second trek through the city she thinks that everyone is a little freaky.

Can you tell if your boyfriend has turned into an alien clone? The Invasion (WB)

There are hints of ideas at play here. At one point a news report in the background states that North Korea has finally signed a peace treaty. Then there was an image of what looked like President Bush and Hugo Chavez embracing in peace as well. So maybe these emotionless clonesfree of such nasty human traits as greed, hate, revenge, and anger are in some ways superior creatures. The aliens say they offer up a brave new world of calm happiness--like some kind of alien Moonies. Yet no humans in this film make a very cogent argument for remaining human. Bennell gets to have a little speech at a dinner party but it's so dry and uninspired that it doesn't make you root for the human race. And this latest adaptation misses what's truly horrifying in Finney's story: the loss of identity. That's what's most terrifying and The Invasion never concerns itself with that fear.

The main problem with this film is that it lacks personality. The actors are good, the production values are high, but you do not feel any inspiration on the part of the filmmakers. This is a by the numbers production, made with about as much emotion and passion as one of the alien made clones. If youre remaking a film for the third time you really should have a vision. Being able to employ a few flashier effects is not justification enough. Although the vomiting to infect people is a nice, sick touch.

The Invasion (rated R for language) is a disappointing remake. It never finds that level of creepiness necessary to make the film effective. In the 1956 film that creepy moment occurred when Dana Wynters transformed and when Kevin McCarthy took to the streets to try and warn people of the invasion but everyone thought he was just crazy. In the 1978 version it was the final image of Donald Sutherland screeching like a siren to point out a human (Veronica Cartwright) that needs to be podded up and transformed. And in the 1993 film, it was a scene in which every single child in a kindergarten class drew the exact same picture. This latest Invasion leaves you with no such memorable moments.

Companion viewing: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Invasion of the Body Snatcher (1976), Body Snatchers (1993), Shaun of the Dead , 28 Days Later, The Andromeda Strain, They Came from Within -----

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