Warner Home Video
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam, Jackson Bond
Extras: Featurette, Clips
For the fourth time the story of "The Body Snatchers" by Jack Finney has been turned into a movie. As expected, once again the story has been "updated" to be more contemporary and offers Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig as the leading stars. Now available in high definition, I decided to take a look at the Blu-Ray version of the film to see how it holds up.
Washington psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman) and her boyfriend Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig) notice that something weird is going on around them. People who were once energetic turn to phlegmatics overnight, it seems. People who were loving stop caring and most of the city seems to be sleepwalking.
On Halloween night Carol and Ben discover the source of the change, a strange spore that seems to come from outer space. These spores use human bodies as hosts to turn them into mindless automata that serve only one purpose – the invasion of Earth by the alien lifeform.
I am sure most of you have seen at least one of the previous movies, Don Siegel's 1956 "Invasion of the Bodysnatchers," the 1978 version with Donald Sutherland, or Abel Ferrara's 1993 adaptation of the material in "Body Snatchers." Interestingly, all of these films were fairly good, especially he first two adaptations. That, of course, makes you wonder why the world needed another remake of the material, and as expected, the film falls sadly short of expectation on a number of levels.
"The Invasion" is not an overly bad film and it has its strengths and highlights. Sadly, the acting is not one of them as much of the cast comes across as pretty hammy, including Nicole Kidman whose performances does not convince at all. Part of it is the script, however, as her character oftentimes focuses on all the wrong things. As a loving parent – which she supposedly is – you never ever forget about your child, and yet she does so repeatedly. Not only that, on occasion the kid will even completely disappear from a scene, breaking all sense of continuity that may have been there. While she behaves like a chased deer at times, which is good, she does so in high heels and not once does she even consider getting rid of her unwieldy shoes or replacing them in the chaos. The list goes on…
Fortunately dialogues are usually serviceable and help gloss over some of the illogical acts the character perform and the film's overall pacing is such that you get a good rush out of it. Nonetheless the third act somehow gave me a rushed impression, as if the writers somehow wanted to wrap things up quickly at any cost without a lot of regards for logic.
What I did like about the film is how restrained it is. While there are some queasy-looking special effects shots of the transformations, there are never really gross or gory. I find that a laudable approach in a time where even something as mundane as a skateboarding game sees the necessity to splatter the screen with blood. I tip my hat to director Oliver Hirschbiegel for taking a mature approach here and not go for the teenage-oriented splatterfest. As a result the alien invasion is much more dark and subliminal, working on the viewers mind, rather than numbing us with gratuitous zombie-like gore.
The movie also sports a great look overall, that is coming through with all its glory, especially on the high definition versions of the film. Presented in 1080p on this Blu-Ray disc, for example, the transfer holds a wonderful level of detail that renders a world with sharp edges and finely delineated textures. Occasionally, shots are grainy, which I'd like to attribute to the filmmakers' intention, to have a gritty look, especially in the outdoor scenes of the movie's second and third act where real chaos ensues and survival is the characters' key premise. The image composition is also notable as there were a number of shots that were crafted and framed very nicely.
The film has a desaturated look by design at times, giving the image a cool blue-tinge that enhances the atmosphere of alienation and isolation that Carol must feel. At the same time it conjures up a sense of cold death and distance that helps viewers to get a grip on the overall state of events.
The disc comes with a Dolby Digital TrueHD audio track that is making good use of the format's capabilities. With aggressive use of the split surrounds and a wide frequency response, the track sounds every bit as engaging as you'd expect from a modern production. The track has a wonderful transparency and clarity that will satisfy even the most demanding enthusiasts. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable. In addition to this lossless track, optional Dolby Digital 5.1 language tracks are also provided on the release.
As extras the disc contains three featurettes, covering different aspects of the production, including the re-conception of the original story for the movie and a behind-the-scenes look with on-set footage. However, these are merely 3-minute clips, so I'm not sure if the term featurette even applies to these clips.
Also included is a 19-minute featurette about the history of body snatcher movies and myths but it is unnecessarily dry in its presentation and not very entertaining either.
While not a complete loser, "The Invasion" had a lot to live up to and failed. I will never understand why people believe remaking perfectly good movies is a great idea to begin with. "The Invasion" could have been a great flick if it had had a bit of original spirit to weave an entirely new story surrounding body snatchers and tie it all up with a bit more logic. But as it is, it sadly does not measure up to neither the 1956 or the utterly disturbing 1978 version. It is good for a good rush and thrill, though, so give it a try sometime as a rental or so.