The Invasion (Warner Bros., R)

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theinvasion2Kidman is actually pretty convincing, even if you suspect she had her doubts about how this film was gonna turn out (and not without reason, by the way-this is the film where she suffered a severe injury on set).




Apparently, filmmakers can't get enough of "Body Snatcher"-themed sci-fi movies-there seems to be a new one at least once a decade. There's indeed plenty of dramatic gold to be mined from paranoia-driven vehicles about something nasty from outer space, and The Invasion tries gamely to find a fresh twist with the premise. In the film, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (with "assistance" from James McTeigue and reportedly the Wachowski Brothers-not a good sign), a NASA space shuttle mission crashes and brings with it to Earth a mysterious flu-like virus. The infection renders victims detached and unemotional, but otherwise looking and carrying on much like their former selves. They only get riled when someone doesn't want to "join" them, which attractive psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman) is not about to do willingly. Once you've seen these new pod people barf on someone (the infection is spread through shared fluids, which makes accepting an offer of a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate a dicey proposition) or show their hideous transformation into their bad ass new selves (something that occurs during REM sleep, when their "genetic expression is reprogrammed"), it kinda negates their pitch for how to become a more peaceful, staid person. Carol mostly wants to protect her son Oliver (game youngster Jackson Bond) from her shifty (guess why?) ex-husband Tucker (Jeremy Northam) and his growing minions, and work with handsome colleague Ben Driscoll (a dapper Daniel Craig) to figure out a solution to the increasingly desperate circumstances. Meanwhile, hordes of glaring Stepford-like baddies are lining the streets, stalking the uninfected and making every which way you turn a path to danger. Worst of all, Carol herself may have been infected, and only if she can stay awake (try doing that after hours and hours of running, car chases and tense phone calls) will she avoid the sort of podcast that would put a major damper on things. And will a small band of determined lab dudes headed by Dr. Stephen Galeano (Jeffrey Wright) find an antidote in time? Will you care?

In truth, I mostly enjoyed The Invasion. Although the screenplay (by David Kajganich) holds few surprises, it's fun watching Nicole Kidman, who looks just beautiful here, try to maneuver her way through an urban landscape increasingly overrun by spore-white trash. Kidman is actually pretty convincing, even if you suspect she had her doubts about how this film was gonna turn out (and not without reason, by the way-this is the film where she suffered a severe injury on set). Northam makes a memorable creepazoid and Craig, while not having to do much overall, retains the charisma he's displayed in other films. But no one is going to call this film a classic. There are too many quick cuts, too many things we've seen before, and a little too much evidence that the original story was manhandled by various Hollywood types, who chose cliché over cutting edge. Still, as a popcorn entertainment, this movie is watchable, and it's anchored pretty solidly by one of our best actresses (although some might say she was slumming). I actually found myself wishing it had been a little longer. That's because I, uh, need to keep myself stimulated...must stay awake, must not doze off, must, uh, er, aaah, zzzzzzzzzzzz... | Kevin Renick

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