Thursday, June 9, 2016

Nicole Kidman and James Bond Fight the Pod People in a Post 9-11 World, or Thoughts on The Invasion

There was a time when Nicole Kidman was primarily known, at least in America, for being Mrs. Tom Cruise and co-starring with him in Days of Thunder (1990), Far and Away (1992), and Eyes Wide Shut (1999).  But you can draw a definitive line in her career after her divorce where she rose to international acclaim starting with The Others (2001) and Moulin Rouge (2001).  With her icy, almost elven good looks she resembles a modern Grace Kelly, and is arguably one of the biggest stars of modern Hollywood.
Which makes her an odd casting choice for the 4th remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), now simply titled The Invasion (2007).  Starring along with Daniel Craig, who had just made his debut in Casino Royale one year earlier, The Invasion moves the story to DC in a big budget post 9-11, post-Katrina, and post X-Files world.  By post X-Files I mean we have come to expect shadowy government agencies, larger alien and/or world government conspiracy arcs, and a general disappointment in or outright distrust of authority figures.
The movie has a great cold open; Nicole Kidman desperately searching for Adderall and Clozapine in a looted pharmacy, with sounds of civil unrest outside before downing a handful of pills and chugging a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew.  You should know by now what happens if you fall asleep.
Nicole Kidman is psychiatrist Dr. Carrol Bennel, which is a nice nod to the original Dr. Miles Bennell from 1956.  She’s a single mom in a custody battle with her CDC ex-husband, who has just discovered alien spores in the wreckage of a space shuttle crash.  Daniel Craig her handsome co-worker Dr. Ben Driscoll, and Veronica Cartwright from the 1978 remake appears in an extended, histrionic cameo as one of her patients, complaining that her husband his not her husband.
The alien invasion starts as a virus or infection passed through food before taking over the host and turning them into unemotional zombies (I should have added post-28 Days Later to that introduction).  There was a last-minute script tune-up by The Wachowskis, and a second director, James McTieigue, was brought in, presumably to add more car chases and explosions.  The Invasion devolves into a different kind of zombie apocalypse, a quieter one of assimilation and conformity.  One of the only remaining thematic elements of the original movie (besides the best one, falling asleep) is tricking the aliens by remaining calm, always difficult to maintain amidst scenes of public suicide and civil unrest.

The body doubles are gone, hence the shorter title.  The movie has a nice sense of paranoia and is genuinely creepy in places, thanks to Nicole Kidman’s natural charisma and star power.  We care about Nicole Kidman as an audience; we’re invested in her well-being and her story, and I think over time history will be kinder to this remake than the critics have been so far.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.