Ah, The Invasion a movie compromised by committee interference and the last minute decision to bring in not only the Wachowskis to rewrite the script but James McTeigue to handle the reshoots. This leaves The Invasion as a film in search of an identity. Well, that and a core idea, any idea will do after a while. These additions stick out for how improbable and tonally different they are from everything else going on around them, and the long-standing tradition of adaptations of Jack Finney’s novel reflecting the main paranoia hovering in the zeitgeist of their time crumbles with a gentle breeze.
You see, The Invasion is the fourth in a series of these things, and the clear winner for Worst in Show. They come out roughly every fifteen to twenty years (1956, 1978, 1993, 2007, so we’re due for another in a few years), and tend to keep the basic pieces in place but shift around what exactly they’re an extended allusion for by swallowing whole major political and cultural concerns of their eras. The Invasion makes vague posturing towards the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terror as a concept, and other such things that kept us all paranoid and awake in fright during the Dubya-era, but it does nothing with them. They merely exist as window dressing for a psychological thriller that dissipates quicker than cotton candy in water.
While it’s impossible to know what exactly the original vision was from Oliver Hirschbiegel, it was clearly not this. A climatic car chase is everything that’s wrong with modern blockbuster film-making in its visual incoherence and flagrant disregard for the laws of physics, and a tacked on happy ending is just a slap in the face to the audience. No, it might be worse than that, it might even cross the line into straight-up contempt for the intelligence of the audience at large. All of this leads to a pile-up of problems where the film feels simultaneously unfinished, overly indulgent, and completely underwhelming in its chaos.
Even worse is how it wastes such a killer group of talent in front of the camera with thankless tasks and incoherent performances. Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig seem completely lost here, with Kidman on paper a brilliant choice for a human trying to masquerade as a frigid alien in order to survive. She’s best when dealing with darker material and impulses so she’s fine in the first half, but The Invasion asks her to suddenly become an action-heroine in its final moments and she’s ill-equipped for this. And poor character actors like Josef Sommer, Celia Weston, Veronica Cartwright, and Jeffrey Wright are left with half-sketched out characters that they try valiantly to make work. It’s a sight to behold, especially Cartwright as a woman who knows something is wrong because her husband no longer abuses her, and one only feels for their herculean task.
If only The Invasion had risen to the level of a good bad movie instead of just being an impotent bore. It just lays there spinning along making 99 minutes feel like interminable hours upon hours of flaccid paranoia and empty spectacle. This can’t even arise to the level of cult or camp enjoyment, and that’s the real sin. If you can’t be good, at least be enjoyably terrible.