Movie Review: L'invasion
By Michael Phillips, Tribune Movie Critic
Enough with the snatching, already. Originally serialized in Collier's in 1954, the Jack Finney story "The Body Snatchers" has spawned four official film versions, two of them (1956 and 1978) terrific, plus dozens of genetically mutated variations on a theme. The latest one is far from the worst thriller of the year, but it's wholly lacking in reasons for being. And the star, Nicole Kidman, may be an "internationally recognized actress," as the promotional materials put it, but the current state of her face - augmented by doll-like makeup and an alarming set of eyebrows - suggests that not long ago our planet experienced an alien invasion of Botox wholesalers and nobody wrote about it, not even the bloggers. Not even Perez Hilton!
It's criminal, really: Kidman can be a very crafty actress and she has genuine range. Here, though, cooing her way through the role of Carol, a Washington, D.C., psychiatrist and single mother trying not to become one of Them, she just seems out of it, even before sleep threatens to overtake her.
In the latest remake the alien spores have a little help getting to the populace. A space shuttle's Columbia-like re-entry disaster spreads debris across the map. The pieces are loaded with little pulsating spores. As in previous versions, the microscopic villains take over a human body, and when that body finally succumbs to deep sleep, presto, you have a pod person, an impersonally efficient but soulless alien look-alike.
Credited screenwriter David Kajganich's version of the story has at its center a pretty sharp notion: The more the masses turn poddy, the more peaceful the globe becomes. Bush and Chavez reconcile. The U.S. pulls out of Iraq. Darfur becomes whole. War becomes practically extinct. This idea goes unexploited, however; it's more of a doleful satiric throwaway than a developed theme. And while the cast is quite good overall, with Daniel Craig playing the love (or "like") interest and eminently sneaky-looking Jeremy Northam as Carol's controlling ex and newly alienized predator, "The Invasion" offers little in the way of fresh shivers or reasons to carry the movie in our heads a while.
The shoot was a complicated one: Warners didn't go for the rough cut provided by director Oliver Hirschbiegel ("Downfall"), and reportedly ordered up post-principal photography script revisions by the Wachowski brothers ("The Matrix"), ultimately shot by director James McTeigue ("V for Vendetta"). I wish the end result was more markedly uneven; instead, it all feels tentative and muffled and a little off all the way through, not helped by a nervous, abrupt editing rhythm. To jazz things up, periodically we're shown digital animation of what the spore fellers are doing to Kidman's bloodstream. I say leave that stuff to the "Magic School Bus" and concentrate on finding bigger reasons for remaking Finney's malleable property for a new century.
Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel; screenplay by David Kajganich, based on Jack Finney's novel "The Body Snatchers"; photographed by Rainer Klausmann; edited by Joel Negron and Hans Funck; music by John Ottman; production design by Jack Fisk; produced by Joel Silver. A Warner Bros. Pictures release. Running time: 1:33. MPAA rating: PG-13 (violence, disturbing images and terror).
Carol - Nicole Kidman
Ben - Daniel Craig
Tucker - Jeremy Northam
Dr. Galeano - Jeffrey Wright