Despite alien action sequences, latest take on The Body Snatchers is surprisingly stylish

The Invasion

on August 17, 2007 by Chad Greene
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Sitting on the stoop of a suburban row house, two boys keep their eyes on the screens of their handheld video games but whisper urgently out of the sides of their mouths.

“Something's wrong with my dad,” hisses Oliver (Jackson Bond).

“Yeah, mine, too,” replies his best friend Gene (Eric Benjamin).

And they aren't the only ones. Ever since the space shuttle broke up while reentering the atmosphere during an unscheduled landing, scattering debris across the country, something's been wrong with a lot of people's dads—and moms. What's particularly alarming in Oliver's case, however, is that his father Tucker Kaufman (Jeremy Northam) is a high-ranking official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—the government agency that should be taking the lead in efforts to contain an alien epidemic some scientists have begun to believe was carried to Earth by the contaminated shuttle shrapnel. Instead, the suddenly—and strangely—emotionless Tucker proposes nationwide inoculations that seem anything but innocuous.

All of which makes his ex-wife, Dr. Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman), think it might be about time to cut short Oliver's visit to Tucker's—especially when she and her hunky “best friend,” Dr. Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig), begin to suspect that her son may possess a natural immunity needed to fend off The Invasion .

Despite truly alien action sequences written by the Wachowski Brothers and shot by their protégé James McTeigue (all uncredited here) that were added after director Oliver Hirshbiegel wrapped principal photography, this take on The Body Snatchers is surprisingly stylish. Working with his Downfall collaborator Hans Funck, Hirshbiegel has created elegantly edited sequences that economically encapsulate the emotional and physical exhaustion that Carol must overcome in order to save her son. It's a testament to the strength of their work that The Invasion more or less manages to shoulder the additional weight of a ridiculously over-the-top climactic car chase sequence and a clumsily on-the-nose expository press conference—both of which rely too heavily on a character who has been strictly secondary up until riding in on a white horse (or, more accurately, a Black Hawk) to save the day and explain it all away.

And there are a few other twists in this sci-fi thriller more likely to induce chuckles than chills. It's very thoughtful, for instance, of the body-snatched to all wear black, thereby instantly informing the uninfected who is and is not under alien control. And there's more than a bit of irony in the fact that the key to survival for any character played by Kidman is to act like an emotionless femme bot.

But in the current political climate, there's no denying that the idea that the government agencies meant to keep us safe could be so stealthily subverted and become the most direct threats to an all-too-apathetic public is incredibly creepy.

“All you have to do is nothing,” Tucker tells Carol in a particularly scary scene. “That's all we're asking.”

Hirschbiegel, however, has managed to do something here.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam, Jackson Bond, Jeffrey Wright, Veronica Cartwright, Josef Sommer, Celia Weston, Roger Rees and Eric Benjamin
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Screenwriter: David Kajganich
Producer: Joel Silver
Genre: Science fiction thriller
Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and terror
Running time: 93 min.
Release date: August 17, 2007
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