Warner Bros. // 2007 // 99 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // February 9th, 2008
"This is going to sound so stupid, or crazy, or both -- my husband is not my husband."
Crazier still, a film that should be a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers isn't a remake of that timelessly haunting tale at all; it only appears to be. Now, if you'll hastily check the basement for pods and discover there aren't any, that is your first clue that all is not right with The Invasion. In fact, something's terribly wrong...
After the space shuttle Patriot crashes to Earth, bringing with it a strange spore-like lifeform attached to its shattered hull, psychiatrist Dr. Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman, Batman Forever) notices a change in demeanor of the people around her. While she would politely listen to the paranoid ravings of one patient (Veronica Cartwright, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978) claiming her husband is not her husband, she becomes unsettled when her own ex-husband, Tucker (Jeremy Northam, A Cock and Bull Story) seems to be acting peculiar. With the help of her friend, Ben (Daniel Craig, Layer Cake) and lab technician Stephen (Jeffrey Wright, Casino Royale), the three discover a pandemic that is altering humans into something less than human overnight. Now, Carol must retrieve her son, Oliver (Jackson Bond), from Tucker's clutches before he, too, joins the ranks of these soulless shells of humanity.
With so much damning evidence against it, it's difficult to know where to begin this case against the latest Joel Silver miscalculation. For starters, though, let the record include previously discovered evidence that has revealed the film released to theaters in the fall of 2007 -- and, subsequently, contained within this particular Blu-ray disc -- is not the film director Oliver Hirschbiegel intended for the public to see. The facts have been presented and corroborated that producer Joel Silver interpreted the director's vision as "a little art film" and not the preferable "commercial" product that was hoped for. For this reason, re-shoots and new sequences were ordered up to the tune of about $17 million. Let the record also bear out that the result of the producer's "help" given to Hirschbiegel's film resulted in a worldwide box office tally of just $45 million, earnings that fell significantly short of the picture's estimated $80 million price tag.
Moving along, it's painfully clear that a patchwork production has been presented to filmgoers, who will likely recognize Hirschbiegel's fine work and Silver's wham-bang tampering. The first part of the film emotes a very deliberate pacing, moody and disquieting. Hirschbiegel clearly understands what made Don Siegel's original picture work, it's narrative steeped in anxiety and growing distrust over the other "people" who, somehow, don't seem to be the same as the were the day before. Many would panic and express their fears outwardly, only to be detected and dealt with by the growing collective of emotionless citizens, yet a small handful of people confer among themselves in secret and determine they will need to find a way to co-exist among the "invaders" until a safe escape can be assured. Any display of emotion, no matter how trivial, could seal their doom.
Apparently, Joel Silver considers calculated paranoia and dread to be "artsy." He prefers wild car chases, jarring CGI sequences, and forward-backward-sideways editing (if you watch the film, you'll understand what this means). He gets what he wants and, ultimately, gets what he deserves for so badly afflicting Hirschbiegel's film with inane sequences that render it soulless, unable to express its perspective -- just as if it had been overrun by mindless beings not of this Earth. And though that might be clever to say, it's really a sad eulogy for a film that should have been so much better.
The potential that had lain before The Invasion begins with the current culture's exposure to round-the-clock news reporting, the sort that infiltrates our lives whether we like it or not. As if it weren't bad enough to be faced with a real and present danger of this sort, the terror is exponentially exacerbated by incessantly talking heads and overactive field reporters in the employ of news channels competing for viewership and unscrupulously upping the visceral ante for higher ratings. Now, couple this with the present-day concerns over biological fallout (whether it comes from across an ocean or across the universe) and the narrative hits uncomfortably close to home. And, add the fear and paranoia of not knowing who's who -- who's human and who's not -- heightened by communication technology that can help us or harm us in a panicked situation, and you have the makings of a compelling tale.
But there weren't enough car crashes, broken glass, and loud noises in Hirschbiegel's film, so it needed help.
As for the acting, it's unclear at this point as to how well (or not) Nicole Kidman did in her role as the psychiatrist who became all too aware of what was happening in her city and within her own family. She's rather stiff in all of this and actually delivers a performance that never allows her character to linger in the compelling realm of disbelief and denial before finally giving to the horror of her reality. Here, she portrays Dr. Bennell as a bit too quick to catch on and, therefore, sacrifices suspense for smarts (that or earlier scenes were excised by Silver so we could hurry and get to the "good stuff").
It's good to see Daniel Craig in another non-Bond role already, the actor deftly learning it's best not to become overwhelmed and, subsequently, isolated within the 007 skin. On first appearance, Craig doesn't even look like the steely secret agent we've immediately embraced, and that's good. Unfortunately, his role is a one-note exercise that never stirs us up. He appears more as a piece of scenery and less of an important cohort to Bennell.
And, near the end of the film, Craig offers a perspective that's chillingly tempting, suggesting that this alien lifeforce might have an intelligence that has broken through the pettiness that keeps our world in perpetual conflict, finding a way to soundly rise above it all:
"Carol, look at yourself -- is this who you are? Is this who you want to be? We were wrong to fight them. Remember our trip up to Colorado? You remember the Aspen grove, how beautiful and peaceful it was? Remember what you said to me? You wondered what it would be like if people could live more like those trees, completely connected with each other -- in harmony, as one."
This is a poignant narrative on our current social situation, especially in this time of international aggressions where many of our own countrymen would seek a way to end it once and for all. This theme isn't explored at all beyond the above dialog.
END OF SPOILERS
Now on Blu-ray disc from Warner Brothers, The Invasion is dressed up to appear to be a major new release in high definition. True, the 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer is excellent. Detail is crisp, black levels are rich yet with plenty of shadow detail, and color saturation is spot on. Audio is also impressive with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix that establishes a wide soundstage peppered with ambient effects and jarring low-end eruptions. Visually and audibly, it's an excellent product. Content, of course, is its inescapable problem. Even in the realm of extras, what's sorely missing here is an audio commentary that could shed some light on the conflicting views of what the film should have been, what it ultimately became, and how all involved feel about the outcome. More importantly, there is no "director's cut" that affords us the opportunity to see Hirschbiegel's original vision so we could decide for ourselves as to which is the better presentation. Instead of any of this, were given a few collective minutes of on-the-set footage and snippets of actor interviews, then are distracted by an 18-minute featurette that strays everywhere except into the realm of understanding more about this troubled endeavor.
If you're looking for rebuttal to the evidence presented thus far, you won't find it. This is a practically indefensible case. You are urged, at this point, to take a look at the 1956 original Invasion of the Body Snatchers and then immediately review the excellent 1978 remake of the same name. This court is convinced you'll arrive to the same conclusion, as does the prosecution here.
Unless the defendants can present Hirschbiegel's original cut of The Invasion for proper review and analysis, this court has no other recourse than to level all blame and damages upon Joel Silver for this unseemly mess.
Review content copyright © 2008 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* "We've Been Snatched Before: Invasion in Media History"
* "The Invasion: A New Story"
* "The Invasion: On the Set"
* "The Invasion: Snatched"
* Official Site
* Original DVD Verdict Review