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The UnPopular Opinion: The Invasion

06.14.2018

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

One of the most terrifying stories in all of literature is Jack Finney's The Body Snatchers. Filmed four times (to date), the novel about people being replaced by zombie-like replicas is imbued with everything that human beings fear. The original 1956 film and the Donald Sutherland remake from 1978 are both regarded as classics for very different reasons. Every decade or so, another adaptation of the original story is mounted to tackle the current fears in society surrounding disease, politics, and othe pertinent topics. The most recent take on the tale, 2007's THE INVASION, may be the most critically maligned of the four adaptations but is also one of the most prescient. Starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, THE INVASION is a fast and slick modern take on the science fiction horror tale and takes the story in a direction vastly different than it's predecessors, making it a truly exciting film.

Plagued by gossip surrounding reshoots, THE INVASION did not make much of a splash at the box office. With a domestic haul of $15 million and a total global gross of $40 million, THE INVASION disappeared quickly from anyone's memory. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (DAS EXPERIMENT) and written by David Kajganich (AMC's The Terror, the upcoming remakes of SUSPIRIA and PET SEMATARY), THE INVASION had additional scenes penned by The Wachowskis and helmed by their protege, James McTeigue (V FOR VENDETTA). Early negative buzz doomed THE INVASION before it even hit multiplexes which is a damn shame as the finished film is thoroughly enjoyable. While nowhere near the cinematic icon that came before it, THE INVASION is far better than Abel Ferrara's 1993 take. But, I make no excuses for THE INVASION as an awards contending masterpiece. This film is pure popcorn entertainment and should be taken as such.

The UnPopular Opinion, Thriller, Science Fiction, The Invasion, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig

THE INVASION was clearly designed to be a top tier science fiction thriller. Oliver Hirschbiegel's influence can be felt throughout the film whereas James McTeigue's more action-oriented approach is visually distinguishable from the rest of the movie. This melding of two very different tones and styles is very apparent when watching the movie and is clearly a reason why critics lambasted the film. Often with movies requiring reshoots, the filmmaker is either given a chance to make the film their own (Ron Howard on SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY) or they are forced to fit inside the filmmaker they are taking the reigns from (Dexter Fletcher on BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY). Here, the conflicting tones and styles are tied to the scenes helmed by each filmmaker, but do not detract from the viewing experience of the film. In fact, I am highly curious to have seen what a fully Wachowski/McTeigue version of this story could have looked like.

When you get down to it, any adaptation of this story is going to carry with it a level of B-movie schlock. Humans being replaced by clones or having their minds controlled by an alien intelligence has with it a need to suspend your disbelief and not try to ground it too much in reality. With that being said, THE INVASION tells as realistic and dramatic a story as possible given the dramatic constraints. It also helps that the two leads are a pair of the best actors of their generation. Daniel Craig, just months after debuting as James Bond in CASINO ROYALE, does a great job here as the supporting player opposite Nicole Kidman. Kidman never once falls into the trap of being a damsel in distress and instead owns every scene she is in with a gravitas that far outweighs the cheesy material. 

The core conceit of THE INVASION is not to fall asleep. The fear and paranoia are ratcheted to extremes here while the master plan of the alien invaders is much more fleshed out than in prior takes on the story. What I like the most about this version is that the aliens' ultimate plan actually is an improvement over the current state of humanity. The alien virus promotes peace and happiness amongst the masses rather than violent conflict and bloodshed as we currently have. This gives the story a Twilight Zone-esque twist in which defeating the aliens does not improve life on Earth but actually makes things a little worse. The lone saving grace becomes the fact that humanity would retain free will, but that will means death and violence continue. By making the aliens less of a two-dimensional villain and making the decision to defeat them more nuanced, THE INVASION presents a political and existential quandary for the immune humans who are in a position to determine the fate of mankind.

From a technical standpoint, THE INVASION is able to successfully overcome the editing debacle mandated by the studio. The cinematography by Rainer Klausmann is creepy and claustrophobic and makes great use of the urban setting of the film. The score by John Ottman is equally atmospheric and lends a studio quality to the film that helps push the film's edge into darker territory. The supporting cast is also top notch with memorable turns by Jeremy Northam, Roger Rees, and a very young Jeffrey Wright. There is also a nice cameo by Veronica Cartwright that harkens back to the 1978 version. Eagle-eyed viewers should also keep an eye out for a cameo by Malin Akerman.

The UnPopular Opinion, Thriller, Science Fiction, The Invasion, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig

Deep inside of THE INVASION is a great film. We may never know what could have been due to the well publicized studio edits and changes to the finished product, but what we do have still remains a very enjoyable movie. The screenplay and initially intended version of the tale may be something only the screenwriter and original director may be willing to share, but the finished film still has some first rate sequences of true horror and paranoid thrills. THE INVASION is nowhere near the mess that gossip and critics led us to believe. If anything, the sour taste of bad word of mouth doomed what is otherwise an intriguing take on a classic story. So if you are willing to put aside comparisons to the superior first and second takes on this story, you may find yourself pleasantly surpirsed by THE INVASION. Hell, you could do a lot worse when it comes to adult science fiction these days.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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