Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Writers: Dave Kajganich (screenplay), Jack Finney (novel)
Cinematographer: Rainer Klausmann
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam, Jackson Bond
Studio/Running Time: Warner Bros. Pictures, 93 min.
There’s something hard to justify about film remakes, though studios seem to disagree with this sentiment. While sometimes they end up working (Scorsese’s remake of Infernal Affairs is the most recent example of a remake done correctly), most of the time they end up as just a watered down version of the original. The unclear nature of what exactly is the original The Invasion sets out to adapt (is it the Jack Finney novel? The 1956 film? The 1978 film? The 1993 film? It’s quite possible I’m even forgetting one…) points to the film’s main problem, that it’s not itself an individual work of art but instead is dependent on its own history for the audience’s understanding.
This is evident from the very beginning of the film, which starts in the middle of the plot with Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman) trying to keep herself from falling asleep. Everyone already knows that if she falls asleep she’ll turn into one of the zombie-alien invaders, so there’s no need to explain this scene, though explaining what it’s doing at the beginning might be helpful. Other than this odd prologue, the plot follows a straight path through the alien invasion, almost rushing past due to an awareness that there’s no need to recant what’s already familiar. Alien spores come and infect the human race; if the main character falls asleep she becomes one of them. No point in exposition or a credible explanation because that’s already been filled in by cultural awareness before entering the theater.
What this leaves the film with is a fairly basic thriller, where Kidman and her love interest Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig) spend an hour trying to not be captured. Unfortunately, neither of the actors’ talents are really utilized, and it’s almost as if joining the alien ranks simply means acting as stiffly as this film’s leads. Oliver Hirschbiegel, a German director who’s worked primarily in television and is making his English language debut, does a serviceable, workmanlike job keeping the heat on but things never become as intense as they could. He’s a director whose creativity ends at portraying the passing of time by simply showing a clock.
Perhaps the oddest element of the film, though, is its political ambiguity. Versions that came before are noted for their rhetorical use of the form, almost diatribes attacking their viewers with what they believe is right. The Invasion, though, is simply too weak to make any form of grand statement about contemporary society. The 1956 version may be an embarrassment in a number of ways but at least it’s a completely earnest one, which ultimately redeems it from becoming mere camp like so many other B movies from that era. This remake, though, seems uncertain whether the aliens and their conformity are good or bad, but not in a way that attempts to show both sides of the issue. Instead it’s just wishy-washy on the subject.
There are worse ways to spend an hour and a half than staring mindlessly at a movie’s impossibly beautiful cast, but there are plenty of better ones as well. Likewise, while there’s nothing wrong with the film per se, it’s definitely a step down from either the 1956 classic or the 1978 work it’s more closely based on. If you must see one film this year staring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, make it The Golden Compass. And if you must see one film this year based on the book Invasion of the Body Snatchers, make it one of the classics.