Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Invasion review

Nicole Kidman stars as a doctor who is trying to save her son, as well as the entire planet from an invasion of microscopic aliens, in this remake of the 1956 classic sci-film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Like the Jonathan Demme thriller “Manchurian Candidate”, the Ashton Kutcher-Bernie Mac comedy “Guess Who?” (based on the 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”) or the Adam Sandler comedy “Mr. Deeds” (Based on Frank Capra’s 1936 film “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”); “The Invasion” belongs to a class of remakes that is created out of a desire to reintroduce modern audiences to the classics. I find these films far preferable to the class of remakes like The Italian Job (2003), The Shaggy Dog (2006), and Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) that are created out of a desire to improve on a film that never resonated with audiences in the first place. Too often, the films in the second group feel like an excuse for a writer not being able to come up with original material of his own.

In the case of the original “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” the film was not only considered to be one of the high points of 1950’s science-fiction filmmaking, but in its day, the film was read as a metaphor for the dangers of passivity in the McCarthy era (although Director Sam Peckinpaugh never admitted the film was anything more than a film about aliens). The 2007 remake, however, leaves out any preachy subtext and simply tries to recapture the excitement and feel of 1950’s science fiction through updated techniques.

The result is an interesting blend of outlandish scientific absurdity with elements of the modern thriller. Science-fiction from the 1950’s and earlier came from an age where modern science was at much earlier stages of deciphering the mysteries of outer space and the human body, so the science-fiction stories of the time was usually built around more fantasical plots that didn’t need scientific explanations. In another recent remake of a 1950’s sci-film, War of the Worlds, Stephen Spielberg didn’t even try to explain the scientific absurdity of having aliens spring up from underneath the streets and just turned the film into a tight-paced thriller. Although without the craftsmanship of Spielberg to guide them, the camerawork and editing feel a little overambitious without in some scenes, but Invasion still feels like a thriller of the same caliber. Like Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds,” the struggles of the entire planet in the wake of an alien invasion are played out through the race of a single parent trying to protect themselves and their offspring from attack.

“Invasion,” however, is a little more science-heavy. In “War of the Worlds,” Tom Cruise spends the film outrunning the alien invasion, but since he knows practically nothing about where they came from or where else they’re located, one is tempted to ask “Where exactly is he running to?” In “Invasion,” issues like these are well-thought: she’s running to a lab that will cure her. Of course, with this outdated plot, you have all sorts of stretches like Nicole Kidman’s misguided belief that by drinking lots of mountain dew and taking pills she can stay awake forever, but Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig (who plays her boyfriend and colleague) and Jeffery Craig (playing her colleague) are such consummate professionals and they take the material so seriously, that the plot holes seem that much smaller. The film’s attention to detail can be enjoyed in the same way a Tom Clancy or a Michael Crichton novel can.