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The Invasion (2007)

August 27, 2007

I think that since it was running on the local public television channel with no commercials, my parents thought that watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) on a Saturday night at the age of nine would be pretty harmless. It scared me half to death. There was no way I was going to sleep now. The neighbors could be aliens and I wouldn’t know. They could have taken over my emotionless Sunday school teacher for all I knew. Well, I did fall asleep. And I haven’t been the same since.

Actually, the memory didn’t last long; then I heard that a fourth attempt was going to be made on adapting Jack Finney’s novel the Body Snatchers to film. It didn’t take me nearly as long to get over my fear and paranoia once I saw that Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig were going to be the main stars. When was the last time Kidman or 007 failed in their attempts to save the world?

While the plot is relatively simple: an alien organism is able to infiltrate human DNA, turning their hosts into automatons once they have slept and allowed it to meld. But it is the larger questions of what makes humans “human” that makes this story potentially interesting and illuminating.

The Invasion engages this question by setting up a conversation between Dr. Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman) and a foreign ambassador named Yorish (Roger Rees) at a dinner party. Yorish makes the claim that it is human action that gives humans meaning in the world, and that the greatest threat is humans apathy toward being responsible- and not taking action against evil, even if it requires violent. The updates that have been made to this film provides added relevance by informally responding to the current theories about transhumanism and technological singularity that continue to bring the questions of being human down to earth from the worlds of science fiction.

Yorish’s voice is muted as the film mimics Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, focusing on the psychology of an alien invasion, action sequences and suspense of whether Carol can stay awake, find her son, and get to the medical facility where the cure has been developed.

The film ends with the voice of Yorish reminding Carol and the audience that this film has broader implications than just as a vehicle to escape life for an hour and a half. Unfortunately, the film ends up as just that sort of escape and the theme gets lost as the audience must be told what the film failed to show. Unlike its predecessor, the film did not open my imagination to the possibility of an alien invasion. Instead, the Invasion was a distraction to the very real political fear that consumes our current times and culture.

greg p veltman

rotten tomatoes