THE INVASION is the 4th time around for the story incubated back in 1955 by Jack Finney’s “The Body Snatchers”, which didn’t make many waves as a novel, but provided notable thrills when transferred to the screen. This production-troubled 2007 adaptation was written by first-timer David Kajkanich and directed by Germany’s Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall), and given a star power boost from Nicole Kidman. *
“My husband is not my husband.”
A returning space shuttle explodes, with debris raining down on a wide swath of America. Soon enough, it’s discovered that the fallout includes a hyper-aggressive spore that rapidly infects most it touches, rendering them carbon-copies of their old selves, minus emotion. Psychiatrist ‘Carol Bennell’ (Kidman), knew her ex-husband was a hard-to-deal-with dick, but his ‘new’ fungus-self is just too much. With assistance from her best-friend/next-in-line-guy ‘Dr. Ben Driscoll’ (next-in-line 007 Daniel Craig), she tries to wrest her son (Jackson Bond) away from her blanked-out ex and his swarming converts, bound to have her to bow to the alien way of ‘living’.
The writing for the 99-minute update sought to reflect post 9-11 tensions; as Kajkanich put it “You just have to look around our world today to see that power inspires nothing more than the desire to retain it and to eliminate anything that threatens it.” In directing his first English-language feature, Hirschbiegel ran into studio-imposed retooling, first given to the uncredited Wachowski Brothers, who apparently rewrote 30% of the script, and then to James McTiegue to do reshoots, also uncredited, and this fussing, over a year after initial production, added $10,000,000 to the already expended $65,000,000 (Nicole’s salary alone gulped $17,000,000). It also involved Kidman breaking several ribs in a car accident stunt. Trooper that she is, she took the bruises in stride.
The critics, however, flayed the results as if their own family members were infected, and the paranoia-placebo’d public only showed $40,200,000 worth of worldwide interest. As is too often the case, the all-bestowing keyboard gods were too harsh: while it doesn’t measure up to the classic 1956 version or the creepy 1978 remake (cannot comment on the 1993 Body Snatchers yet), it’s a decent-enough thriller on its own, even if it spirals into standard noisemaking in the last act. From start to wrap, holding it together is the usual essay of excellence from Nicole Kidman, a fearless and fun actress whose charm, poise, skill and energy are enough to balance the narrative jerkiness (she could almost salvage something really cursed, like Bewitched).
“Don’t fight, Carol. There’s no need for it. All you have to do is nothing. That’s all we’re asking. It doesn’t hurt. Watch. It’s just like catching a cold.”
With Jeffrey Wright, Veronica Cartwright (playing upset, as always: she was also in the 1978 go), Celia Weston, Josef Sommer, Roger Rees, Susan Floyd (an interesting, attractive and underused actress). Okay score is by John Ottman. P.S.–it helps if you can handle barf.
* The Invasion ranked 90th place in the 2007 rumble. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, the 1956 grampa, pulled 49th (sharing the moola berth with Forbidden Planet). The 1978 version was the biggest monetary success, coming in 27th that year. The 1993 entry, Body Snatchers, was barely released and only scared up $400,000. Money tinkling and swamp-gas critical flatus to the side, the story is a sure thing, and likely will be remade (if we are allowed to live long enough), though in this knave new world of moronic selfies, Farcebook manifestos and twitters from Sauron, you could argue that we’ve already been snatched and the spores reign supreme.