by Corey Hall
Every decade or so, Hollywood feels the need to revive Jack Finney's immortal 1955 sci-fi novel The Body Snatchers, about emotionless alien invaders who secretly replace the public; and sometimes it really works. The iconic '50s version echoed the red scare paranoia of Ike's drab suburbia, and Phil Kaufman's terrifically moody late '70's take parodied the coming of yuppie consumerism. This thoroughly modern attempt is politically jumbled, and stars the perfectly plastic Nicole Kidman, who off-screen has already escaped the clutches of a freaky ex-husband and his scary cult. Here she carries the burden of keeping the last spark of humanity alive. She may have been more appropriately cast as a robotic housewife in the awful Stepford Wives remake, as her icy reserve and flawless beauty don't really scream "normality" or the emotional diversity of the species.
Kidman's paired with the equally blond and handsome Daniel Craig, who's running at about half his full James Bond charisma, and together they make a blandly beautiful Aryan super couple. Kidman plays Carol, a divorced mom and buttoned-down psychologist who prescribes heavier meds to her patients when they start complaining about their loved ones acting strangely. Soon enough her ex-husband starts behaving outside the bounds of his usual dickish personality, and the red flags begin flying. By the time this dawns on her, the slime-spewing space creeps have already spread the infection and turned much of the population into walking J. Crew catalog fugitives.
As luck would have it, Carol's mop-topped brat happens to have an immunity in his blood, and she cooks up a plan to rescue him and save the world, a scheme that mostly involves stealing cars, breaking windows and causing massive property damage whenever possible. Plot points are tidily stacked like building blocks, the script is paint-by-numbers, and the whole production rides a comfortable groove down a well-traveled patch of highway.
As a spooky thriller, The Invasion is familiar but passable. As a social parable, it's a complete mess. Despite some potshots at red-state compliance and the current administration, the movie is almost a defense of neo-conservatism, arguing that freedom equals violence and strife, and you're not really human until you're blowing shit up.
If the picture seems jerkily edited, there's good reason: It was taken away from director Oliver Hirschbiegel and handed to the Wachowski brothers, who did reshoots, likely including most of the action and the alien glop porn. The meddling studio suits bled the life out of it, and succeeded in making an action thriller even more soulless than the pod people's dreams.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.