Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel
Body Snatchers. For my money, there’s nothing scarier than those emotionless flesh-pods. I love and cherish Don Siegal’s original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake, and Abel Ferrara’s 1993 re-imagining. They were all terrifying in their own right, and each one explored their themes in unique and satisfying ways. Most importantly, these were the films you could point to and say, “You see? Remakes can work.”
But this is 2007 and Hollywood has gotten progressively dumber. Now we come to The Invasion, another modern train wreck in the remake trend. This particular film is even more depressing by virtue of the fact that it had a lot going for it, namely Oliver Hirschbiegel, the German filmmaker who brilliantly plumbed the depths of mental terror with Das Experiment (review). Who better to tackle the complex psychological nightmare of the Body Snatchers? Sadly, like all foreign directors, Hirschbiegal’s big American debut got the shaft when his version was rejected by the execs at Warner Bros, reportedly for its lack of big scale action sequences. Their solution? Bring aboard V for Vendetta director James McTeigue and the Wachowski Brothers to re-shoot half the film and amp it up for summer movie audiences.
You can almost see some dim-witted suit in a studio saying, “All those Body Snatchers movies were old! Today’s audiences want to see them hurl molotov cocktails during kick-ass car chases!”
In this version there are no alien pods or shrieking, finger-pointing humanoids. This time the menace takes the form of a flu-like virus that finds its way to Earth aboard a crashed space shuttle. Infected humans slowly mutate into cold, emotionless beings and spread the virus through food and vaccines. Before you can shout “They’re here!” most of the populace become snatched, and those remaining find themselves in a race to find a cure. Renowned shrink Carol (Nicole Kidman, who alternates between three different accents) is one of the many people who find themselves smack in the middle of this catastrophe and, along with partner Ben (pre-Bond Daniel Craig), races to find her son, who happens to be immune to the infection. In an interesting twist people can carry the virus and stay human for as long as they are awake. So while the other films flirted with the notion, here it’s unavoidable: Sleep equals doom.
As a re-imagining, The Invasion introduces some great ideas, but it all comes tumbling down in one of the worst post-production hack-jobs you’ll ever see. This is a film that reeks of too many cooks in the kitchen, full of rushed scenes, tone shifts, and afterthoughts that kill any trace of tension or atmosphere. Along with badly shoe-horned action sequences and convenient Hollywood twists, The Invasion sports the worst editing in film history. Yes, you heard right. No exaggeration. At random points, for absolutely no reason, the film bursts into out-of-sequence montages and flashy quick-cuts, showing images from LATER scenes in the film. Why? Possibly because some idiot thought a music-video flare would be the only thing to keep the attention of today’s audiences? I don’t know what’s more confusing, the actual editing or the fact that there are industry people this incompetent who are calling the shots.
Even worse, buried deep within this mess there are signs of a good movie struggling to get out. Right away it’s pretty clear that Hirschbiegal set out to make a calculated psychological creepfest that played off the modern horrors of this post-9/11 / Katrina / Iraq era. Moments of good old-fashioned Body Snatchers paranoia even shine through, with a few inspired set-pieces and nods to other versions (including an appearance from Veronica Cartwright in a role similar to Kevin McCarthy’s cameo in the Kaufman remake). But, when all is said and done, the good aspects just go to show how badly this film was gutted.
If there’s any justice in the world (and we all know there isn’t), we’ll see Oliver Hirschbiegel’s version on some future DVD release. In the meantime, file this under the long list of films body-snatched by the grinding Hollywood machine.
2 out of 5
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