The Invasion


Nicole Kidman as Carol Bennell
Daniel Craig as Ben Driscoll
Jeremy Northam as Tucker Kaufman
Jackson Bond as Oliver
Jeffrey Wright as Dr. Stephen Galeano
Veronica Cartwright as Wendy Lenk

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel

From Homer’s Odysseus to Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces, if a truly archetypal story is defined by the number of times it is told, then Jack Finney’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is the paranoid fantasy of this century, as it undergoes its fourth iteration in as many decades, in “The Invasion.”

As with most things, the farther away from the original source they get, the more watered down each succeeding generation gets, and while an inventive filmmaker can show even the most well known story from a new angle, the odds are not good.

This go-round is told from the point of view of Dr. Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman), a Washington D.C. psychiatrist who becomes concerned about the strange changes in her ex-husband (Jeremy Northam) and what they might mean for their son (Jackson Bond), though her personal family problems are about to be the least of her worries.

The English language debut of acclaimed German director Oliver Hirschbiegel, “The Invasion” benefits from, at least in the first half, a disjointed style intended to emphasize Bennell’s disconnection from the world, and the world from her, particularly as her struggle to stay awake becomes more and more imperative, with the film jumping forward in time and space without warning or explanation. It’s interesting as an idea, but rather less so in practice as there is little real connection with any of the characters.

Kidman and Daniel Craig, as her best friend-cum-boyfriend, do their normal solid work, but the script by Dave Kajganich is on auto-pilot, with most dialogue used for rather bland exposition instead of any sort of real characterization. Jeffrey Wright gets the worst of it; he is completely wasted. Every line of dialogue he has is exposition of one form or another. There are a few tries at thematic relevance about humanity being defined by its capacity for atrocity – individuality inevitably leading to warfare – but not that well, as often for ill-advised humor (a news broadcast about the new friendship between President Bush and President Hugo Chavez) as not, and don’t really add anything to what little tension the film has. It’s more of an intellectual exercise for Hirschbiegel than anything else.

At least until the last twenty minutes when it finally transforms into the genuine chase film that it has been threatening to become, largely thanks to last minute rewrites by the Wachowski Brothers (“The Matrix”) and some uncredited ghost directing by James McTiegue (“V For Vendetta”), and the tone changes considerably. It’s certainly quite a bit more entertaining, but also quite a bit more brainless than the early parts of the film, culminating in a highly sanitized ending that doesn’t really do the film’s pedigree justice.

All that said, “The Invasion” is too solidly crafted to be genuinely bad film, but it completely fails to grip as a thriller.