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The Invasion

Warner Bros. Pictures

Review in a Hurry: A remake seemed right for our zeitgeist. The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) was borne of Cold War paranoia, and the 1978 version was the product of a post-Vietnam/Watergate distrust of politicians. (Sound familiar?) So, a contemporary commentary on our terrorist times, inept administration and fear of pandemics could kick allegorical ass. Unfortunately, this Invasion, though it racks up some scares and features a fetching Nicole Kidman, comes up short.

The Bigger Picture: As you may know, this production suffered rewrites and reshoots after the studio was dissatisfied with the initial cut. Warner Bros. hired the Wachowski brothers (the Matrix dudes) to punch up the script and also brought on director James McTeigue. As messy as that sounds, Invasion isn't as disastrous as you might expect, but the stitches of this Frankenstein filmmaking are quite visible.

Aliens arrive via space shuttle, which explodes on reentry and scatters pieces covered with a gooey residue. Unsuspecting folk quickly become infected by these space spores, which attack human DNA while the hosts sleep. After awakening, transformed, they look exactly the same but exhibit no emotion. And they want to rule the world!

One of those first affected is CDC official Tucker Kaufman (Jeremy Northam). His ex-wife, D.C. psychologist Carol Bennell (Kidman), becomes suspicious when he wants to spend time with their son, Oliver (Jackson Bond), but she still lets the kid visit his estranged—and now strange!—dad.

As the mysterious flu spreads, Carol and her friend Dr. Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig) figure out what's happening and try to rescue Oliver, stat! But when Carol is infected by her ex, she has to stay awake and stay alive long enough to save her son and find an antidote. After an intimate and claustrophobic first half, things get less subtle and more frustrating. The pic piles on annoying editing tricks and stylistically morphs into a conventional, over-the-top action movie complete with a flaming car chase climax.

And then there's the eye-rollingly awful ending with its expositional monologue and clichéd family scene. How to explain this brainless, gutless resolution? Clearly, aliens (i.e., the suits) snatched Invasion's body and soul.

The 180—a Second Opinion: No one portrays hysteria like the great character actress Veronica Cartwright. She cameos here as one of Carol's patients who's panicked about her husband's odd behavior. It's a sly nod to the superior 1978 remake, in which Cartwright also appeared and shrieked wonderfully, "It opened its eyes! It opened its eyes!" Awesome.