If director James McTeigue can’t spruce up a movie, it’s doomed to Blockbuster purgatory.
The assistant director of “Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones” and “The Matrix” trilogy co-directs “The Invasion,” loosely based on the novel and several movie remakes of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” The flick follows psychiatrist and mother Carol Bennell, portrayed by Nicole Kidman, as she embarks on a hellish journey to find her son, Oliver, before she succumbs to an evil alien virus that is trying to take over her body.
The virus first shows up when a space shuttle attempts an impromptu landing and crashes to Earth, leaving its remnants scattered in a suburban American town. The curious residents explore the wreckage and unknowingly contract the virus, then spread it to others through a rather explicit transfer of bodily fluid.
Bennell turns to her best friend and semi-romantic interest, Ben Driscoll, portrayed by James Bond rookie Daniel Craig. Through his contacts, they find a scientist who studies the virus and discovers that it works by restructuring human DNA to make its victims a shell of their former selves. Emotionless, those who have been “invaded” by the virus seem to have no interests other than living a mundane, peaceful life. But to do this, they must infect everyone on earth.
“The Invasion” is director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s English language debut. He is primarily known for his work in German films, and it seems American movie execs thought that things should stay that way. Though the film originally wrapped in early 2006, its release was delayed until Aug. 17 of this year.
Apparently unhappy with Hirschbiegel’s cut of the movie, Warner Brothers Studios brought in brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski, also of “The Matrix” fame, for rewrites. But “The Invasion” was a lost cause.
Like many horror movies, the viewer is immediately thrown into the action at the start of the film. In theory, this should grab the viewer’s attention. However, in this case, the film doesn’t take the time to create an emotional tie between the characters and the audience.
The only character I did find myself empathizing with was Bennell. During the movie, her mantra becomes “Don’t sleep! Don’t sleep!” since the virus can only take control of one’s body during REM sleep. While the movie played out on the screen before me, “Don’t sleep! Don’t sleep!” became my mantra as well.
The most interesting scene was the car chase before the boring, predictable end of the movie. For those who delight in watching celebrities make public horrors of themselves in their real lives, this scene will make Britney Spears fans feel right at home. As Kidman recklessly drives her flaming car through a parking garage, smashing into walls at every turn, she shouts at her son in the seat beside her to answer her cell phone. It makes Spears look like June Cleaver.
With clichéd medical impossibilities, unlikable characters and an easy-out ending, “The Invasion” is nothing more than a very poor man’s “28 Days Later.” Its only redeeming quality is the adorable and modern relationship between Bennell and her son, but this time, a cute kid isn’t enough to save the film.
Chrissy Reese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.