Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Invasion

The Invasion (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2007) Every era gets "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers"* it deserves; every adaptation reflects the times it was made—it's just how you interpret the message of the movie is key. Don Siegel's 1950's original could be either an allegory for Communists in our midst, or the sheep-like betrayal of those naming names in the McCarthy (Joe, not Kevin) hearings. Philip Kaufman's 1970's remake featured intellectuals who succumbed to like-minded behavior, not unlike a cult, speaking in alien tongues. The 90's saw Abel Ferrara's version simply called Body Snatchers, and treated the plot like it was an epidemic, or an AIDS allegory.

Now, we get (simply) The Invasion and it has a slightly different spin. Post-Iraq occupation,
the feeling of paranoia and subsequent running through the city streets are accompanied by the intermittent soundtrack of world tragedy that tallies just how much of a mess we've made of it. These particular "pod-people" (humans are not replaced, cloned, or supplanted, but spores infect their DNA, affecting their "genetic expression,"** putting the human host to sleep, and allowing the alien spores to live through the host, unemotionally, except for an aggressive tendency to regurgitate in order to multiply their numbers, indoctrinate, coming to your door, using the police to forcibly take people to clinics to be converted. One can make comparisons to Iraq, but also terrorist sleeper-cells "in our midst." 

But, just so you know which side the film-makers are coming down on, one of the converted makes an un-impassioned speech to Dr. Bennell (Nicole Kidman) about embedded pod-ification being a better life—a more tranquil life...except, of course, for all the chasing around, the deliberate traffic accidents and projectile vomiting, the kind of which culminates in an extremely loopy sequence where Benell and her child have hijacked a car and go tearing around the streets with pod-people clinging to it while its hood is on fire. Pretty hard to make an intellectual case for "Better World" stick with that evidence.

Except for the emphasis on strong women protecting their brood this time around, the changes are mostly cosmetic. Instead of pods, which would imply cloning or replacement (so last century!), these spores infect you, then while you sleep encase you in a caul-like casing (evidently of the junk you take out of your eye in the morning, supplying the necesary "Ewww" factor).

But, there's an added creepiness to this movie and it belongs to star, Nicole Kidman, who seems decidely plasticene—almost "Barbie-like" in this film. I'm not talking about that huge shiny forehead that she wears during awards show. Here's she's rail thin, and her costumer has fitted her with extremely tight ensemblesso tight, in fact, that (how do I put this delicately?) no part of her anatomy moves when she's in motion, if you get my drift. One begins to suspect that she has already been taken over, or she's the same character who escaped from The Stepford Wives. Whatever the reason, it's a bit creepy.

* Just to be clear what we're talking about here: "The Body Snatchers" was a 1955 sci-fi novel by the extraordinary Jack Finney (read his "Time and Again" sometime), who, although, he usually fudged the science bit, managed to use the genre for great allegorical points. "The Body Snatchers" was about an invasion of "space-pods" that infected a California town and would replace human beings with emotionless drones. The time might be right for a new version where the pods come already accessorized with cell-phones.

** The poor guy saddled with the "Basil Exposition" gobbledy-gook dialogue is the brilliant Jeffrey Wright, who does a yeoman's job of making it seem like he's actually thinking of all this tech-speak off the top of his head, although he looks a tad uncomfortable doing it.

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