Film (2007). Warner Bros, Village Roadshow Pictures, Silver Pictures. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, additional sequences by James McTeigue (uncredited). Written by David Kajganich, based on The Body Snatcher (1954) by Jack Finney; additional material by Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski (then known together as The Wachowski Brothers). Cast includes Jackson Bond, Veronica Cartwright, Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Northam, Josef Sommer and Jeffrey Wright. 99 minutes. Colour.
It is possible to speculate that a modest film with a still small voice lurks within the claptrap contrivance that reached what turned out to be an exceedingly small public, but there seems little point in making any serious attempt to reconstruct the original footage, before Warner Bros hired new writers (The Wachowski Brothers) and a new director (McTeigue) to "rescue" the production. As far as it is possible to tell, the main contribution of these hired guns was to bung a series of CGI-augmented chase and action sequences into a film originally shot without any significant techno-goosing (which in the end failed to attract punters).
The more intimate footage making up The Invasion can probably be identified, however; it is mostly seen in the first half of the action. The tale seems originally seems to have been designed to track the young psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Kidman) as she attempts to protect her young son Oliver (Bond) from her strangely changed ex-husband Tucker Kaufman (Northam), a director of the governmental Center for Disease Control, who has just visited a crashed space shuttle that has been infested (it turns out) by a microbial spongiform multiplex organism (see Hive Mind) en route to its Invasion of Earth. As the infection begins to make inroads in Washington DC, turning people into vaguely impassive units of the overmind, Bennell talks with the Czech ambassador Josef Belicec (Sommer) over dinner; his Eastern European wisdom is that Homo sapiens would not survive the calming influence of centralized mental control, as we are primarily identifiable as creatures of insensate violence.
Meanwhile a childhood ailment has immunized Bennell's son, and she inspires her friend Dr Ben Driscoll (Craig) to plunge into research that might save the planet: but at which point, more or less, CGI takes over, most of the subsequent action scenes involving Bennell (who has turned on a dime into a stunt driver). The mysterious absence of Driscoll from the second half of The Invasion may be accounted for by the extra-diegetic departure of Daniel Craig, whose first Bond film was demanding his time. In any case, off-screen, Driscoll is eventually infected, revealing his transformation to Bennell in a sequence that invokes Donald Sutherland's coup de theatre in the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers; in that film, Ambassador Belicec's wife is played by Veronica Cartwright, who also has a supporting role here, as a distressed patient of Bennell's. In the end, it is discovered that – as in H G Wells's The War of the Worlds (1898) and in all its film versions for more than a century – the Aliens have no defences against Earth diseases or vaccines. Those humans who have been infected with preternatural group-calm awaken, after being vaccinated, as from a dream; and remember nothing. A while later, Driscoll (in a reveal lacking any element of surprise) is now married to Bennell. The news reports worldwide atrocities: Homo sapiens is back in charge. But Bennell's son loves Driscoll. Driscoll loves Bennell's son. Another American family has been saved. [JC]
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