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Monday, 29 November 1999 19:00
Local opening date: 8/17/2007
Reviewed by Diane Carson
Science fiction often reveals deep-seated anxieties about their social moment. Director Don Siegel's original 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers provided a commentary on the acute fear of Communism's mind-numbing control. Philip Kaufman's 1978 remake attacked that era's conformity-minded, blasé American citizens. Today addressing threatening pandemics or numerous current conflicts should offer a tantalizing hook for The Invasion, the latest adaptation of Jack Finney's novel

Unfortunately, this current version, that had several directors working on it, ignores potential ideas in favor of senseless chases and cheap horror film tricks. Moreover, it absolutely squanders a terrific cast of Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Rupert Everett, who spend very little time in anything approaching dynamic, complex interaction. They seem to have found their own pod performance mode that makes it difficult to engage with them. The problems don't end there.

Kidman plays Washington, D.C. psychiatrist Carol Bennell, Craig is friend Ben Driscoll, and Everett is loathed ex-husband Tucker. Stooping to the lowest common denominator for eliciting sympathy, Carol's son Oliver is the child in peril. He commands the overwhelming share of Carol's hysteria and attention. Add to this cliché chases with running and hiding, squealing tires and menacing subways. Periodically, sprinkle in CSI-type graphics of terrifying mutant cells as this life-altering alien intruder infects victims through unappealing spewing from one person to the next. And why?

Awkwardly patched together, the story flounders beginning with a flashback. I've often argued that ill-conceived flashbacks give away too much too soon-after all, we know where we'll end up and with whom, robbing the story of momentum or suspense. Occasional jittery editing, flash frames, and pounding music try to develop the jolts lacking because of weak idea and character development. Too late in the film, a grandstand speech announces what could have been the nexus of exciting debate-what do we sacrifice for our emotional indulgence? Well, that's another film. The Invasion does have a thrilling car chase, some good looking framing, and some effective art direction-note especially the orange and reds in the psychiatrist's office. But as sci-fi, it's a botched opportunity to update a classic story. At area theatres.

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