Snatching the body snatchers
Since its publication in 1955, Jack Finney’s paranoiac sci-fi thriller The Body Snatchers has seen a screen adaptation for each succeeding generation. Concerning an intergalactic drift of space spore that settles on an American community, the movie is about a band of locals that is horrified to discover that the parasites perfectly replicate their hosts and share an emotionless hive mentality—and the phenomenon is relentlessly spreading.
Each variation casts a jaundiced eye on different sociopolitical tendencies in the then-contemporary society, all of the allegories adaptable to the (ironically) individual fears of whatever collective one was biased against.
In German director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s The Invasion, the script plays a fresh riff on the premise: What if the loss of ego wasn’t entirely a bad thing? What price would you really pay for world peace? For a mainstream flick, it’s a ballsy tack to take: The implication being that by winning, mankind may lose.
Here we join a Beltway psychiatrist (Nicole Kidman) who is disturbed to find that an otherworldly threat is undercutting her business of prescribing personality-tamping drugs to patients impatient with their humanity. As she and her doctor beau (Daniel Craig) scurry about town in search of her young son (who holds the key to defeating the menace to society), more and more of their former friends and acquaintances begin to look at them with blank faces and calculating eyes … just before trying to puke on them.
There are certain aspects of the film that aren’t all that compelling; mostly that Kidman and Craig aren’t the easiest performers to buy the threat of losing their humanity (they’re too cold to start with … would anyone notice the difference?). And the emphasis on telling rather than showing gets old after a while.
The film isn’t the most welcoming of narratives; the first act is a little too heavy on characters text-messaging their concerns (and while it may be a deliberate choice on the part of the director, it doesn’t make for compelling viewing). However, the film picks up during the apocalyptic breakdown of the old society as it gives birth to the new. In a way, it plays out like a zombie flick for folks who think that the living dead are too damned silly.
Ultimately, there’s a creepy enough vibe that settles over the project that slowly draws you in, although up toward the last act it’s more of an existential horror film than a visceral one.