I think it was bad reviews that dissuaded me from watching this film at the time of its release – this despite my sense that Oliver Hirschbiegel (DER UNTERGANG/DOWNFALL) is pretty much a genius. I’m glad I didn’t listen to the reviewers this time!
Based on a 1955 novel by Jack Finney, INVASION is the fourth notable adaptation of the famous story about the Body Snatchers – aliens who attack people in REM sleep, transforming them into emotionless zombies.
INVASION works on so many levels, it’s a shame the snotty critics panned it as they did, back in 2007.
First of all, it’s about the only movie I ever saw (besides maybe EYES WIDE SHUT) in which Nicole Kidman is a good actress. This due to the fact that she’s in chase sequences where she has to stay calm so that the aliens (who have no emotions) wouldn’t recognize her. Now there’s nothing that Kidman does better than a wax museum face: this is because she can’t really act, she can only FROWN. Also, Nicole’s characters have to neurotic, as this is the best wy to disguise her limited emotional range.
And then we have the more-than-inspired casting of Veronica Cartwright as dr. Kidman’s patient, plagued by a sadistic husband. From her early appearance in Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS across her turn as Lambert in ALIEN, Cartwright’s always played these conventional women in emotional disarray. What the hysteria brings to the fore are the unconscious conflicts in the other characters (the arrival of the birds, the attack of the alien, etc). Veronica is thus one of those ”girl who cried wolf” faces you can never forget. She is cast ideally in THE INVASION as the Cassandra who will set dr. Kidman on the road to self-knowledge.
But on to sociological matters. One of the reasons I like Hirschbiegel is that he’s the type who will marry crass action sequences with philosophical debates. There are so many laborious scientific and philosophical explanations in the dialogue, you wonder how the movie was ever released to American audiences. The discussions vary from interesting to funny, but the common thread is that the aliens want to remove human emotions from society.
This is precisely the updating that the Body Snatchers story needed in the 00s. In the 1950s film, the aliens were a metaphor of anti-Communist paranoia. In Philip Kaufman’s 1970s update, they were the fear of technological bureaucratization. Then Abel Ferrara brilliantly turned them into the American militaristic complex, which was growing profusely in the 1990s.
In modern-day America, we have reached the apex of all these developments. The USA has become a melting pot of militancy, bureaucracy and paranoia that the three previous directors envisaged in their films.
But the agenda of the aliens, this time round, isn’t bad – they want to calm humanity down, creating a sedated socialism. Wars do not happen, everyone has enough to eat and all the public services run smoothly. The biggest problem of the alien society seems a creeping sense of boredom. Other than that, it is a much nicer world than Kidman’s world of ”emotional management” in the midst of uncontrollable, market-driven individualism.