Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam
Oliver Hirschbiegel (James McTeigue is uncredited)
Dave Kajganich (based upon Jack Finney novel)
Having been unfortunate enough to view an early trailer for "The Invasion," my previously high expectations for this latest revisiting of Jack Finney's novel, "The Body Snatchers," plummeted to the point that I began to wonder if "The Invasion" might bring forth a Nicole Kidman performance similar to the campfest known as "The Stepford Wives."
While "The Invasion" works on a far greater level than "The Stepford Wives," my fears weren't entirely unfounded.
"The Invasion" is a jarringly inconsistent film, mostly owing to the ill-advised decision to blend director Oliver Hirschbiegel's original print, which tested poorly, with a few re-shot, more commercialized and techno-centered scenes written by the Wachowski brothers and their hand-picked director James McTeigue. The end result ends up feeling a bit like what would happen if we suddenly combined the original "War of the Worlds" with the Spielberg version.
It ain't pretty, folks.
In "The Invasion," Nicole Kidman plays Carol Bennell, a divorced psychiatrist who's experiencing tremendous anxiety while separated from her son, Oliver (Jackson Bond), while he's off visiting his father (Jeremy Northam).
"The Invasion" starts off wonderfully, providing me with false hopes that, just perhaps, the trailer I'd viewed would be simply a poorly shot trailer and no indicator at all of the remarkable film I was about to see.
Oh well. So much for that idea.
Quickly, we learn that the father, Tucker, has been taken over by an alien species and is hellbent on a mass conversion of the human population.
Baically, the entire film centers around Carol's efforts to find her son, protect her son and avoid sleep (the primary way in which the "infection" gets spread). Joined by her platonic friend Ben (Daniel Craig), Carol mostly does what we already know Kidman does well...looks pensive.
While one certainly can't fault a studio's decision to re-work scenes on the basis of test screenings, it's complete and utter stupidity to vacillate between the darker, moodier Hirschbiegel ("Downfall") stylings to the over-the-top, moodless workings of the Wachowski's/McTeigue. To top it off, the editing is done so poorly that it's almost more entertaining than the film itself to sit there trying to guess "Wachowski/McTeigue scene" or "Hirschbiegel" scene.
While "The Invasion" moves along at a nice enough clip, the ending (a Wachowski/McTeigue scene, no doubt) is dishearteningly unsatisfying and frustratingly cliche'.
It's no secret that Finney's novel was, at least subliminally, a political novel with anti-communism undertones. In "The Invasion," the political tone is so completely over-the-top that I was half-surprised we didn't have a scene of George W. Bush riding in declaring victory over the evildoers.
I exaggerate...a bit. But, not really.
While Kidman's performance here is infinitely more satisfying than that in "The Stepford Wives," it pales in comparison to her finest work in films such as "Dogville," "The Hours" and "Moulin Rouge." She's essentially called upon to be beautiful and protective and seldom does her performance rise above these two attributes.
Likewise, Craig, who accepted this role before his fine work in "Infamous" and "Casino Royale," must be lowering his head in shame for following up such incredible work with such a vacant performance here.
With its slipshod directing styles, bland performances, inconsistent script and widely varying production design, it's a safe bet that "The Invasion" will be invading local video stores in the not so distant future.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic