Written by Caballero Oscuro
Here’s a simple equation Hollywood needs to remember: Nicole Kidman + big budget remake = box office bomb. It’s no fault of Kidman’s, but with the DVD release of The Invasion, her third strike following The Stepford Wives and Bewitched, a clear pattern has emerged that bears close scrutiny by studio heads as well as her agent.
The Invasion is a textbook example of everything that can go wrong with current big studio releases. Starting with a previously used concept, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, then casting major stars Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, the production team has attempted to muster popular appeal for a project that is at its core an extremely weak rehash. Interestingly, the producers appear to have hoped to inject some originality into the formula by utilizing a new screenwriter (David Kajganich), as well as an import director (well-regarded German helmer Oliver Hirschbiegel), but neither choice yielded favorable results. The final project reeks of design by committee, offering no unique voice and hence no compelling reason for anyone to seek it out.
Even the film’s opening plot device feels like a cheap piece of needless sensationalism, as we’re informed that a space shuttle has exploded during re-entry, scattering debris over a large swath of the U.S. That space trash carries a mysterious microscopic agent that begins infecting the U.S. population, activating only when carriers go to sleep. During their unconscious outbreak, infected carriers sprout some kind of mucousy outer layer that miraculously disappears before they wake up, leaving them looking completely normal but acting like, well, Stepford wives (sorry, Nicole) desperate to convert the rest of the population to their emotionless cult.
Kidman plays a psychiatrist named Carol, a devoted single mom enamored with colleague Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig). Although Kidman’s ex-husband is quickly infected and Kidman fights to delay her own infection by any sleep-prevention means necessary, their son is somehow completely immune and as such, a potential solution to the epidemic. Meanwhile, Ben pops in and out of her life, offering support but also garnering suspicion as a possible carrier every time he reappears. The film hinges on issues of trust as related to the infection, trying to keep the audience guessing about who is a carrier and when they become infected, although it never really builds any tangible tension due to its bungled execution.
The disease’s origin and intention are never really explored, not that an interesting backstory would have helped much but at least viewers might have had some more investment into the “why” of the film. Sure, it could be argued that we’re supposed to be as clueless as Carol, but then the film’s inevitable conclusion leaves us wondering what all the fuss was about. I did relate to Carol in one aspect, as the film’s total lack of suspense left me fighting just as hard as her to stay awake. There’s nothing terrifying about the infected but completely functional population just becoming soulless automatons, especially when they don’t seem to have any evil master plan other than global dissemination of their plague.
As for the acting, Kidman plays Carol well as the dutiful and paranoid mom, but Craig is mostly wasted in his surprisingly small and enigmatic role. Jeffrey Wright pops up momentarily for no discernible reason other than a quick paycheck, and the rest of the cast is completely unmemorable.
The DVD includes a documentary about invasion in media history, as well as three brief featurettes regarding the film. My recommendation: rent any of the previous versions of the film or read the original source novel.