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Warner Home Video presents
The Invasion Combo DVD and HD-DVD (2007)

"My husband is not my husband."
- Wendy Lenk (Veronica Cartwright)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: February 06, 2008

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig
Other Stars: Jeremy Northam, Jeffrey Wright, Veronica Cartwright, Jackson Bond
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and terror
Run Time: 01h:39m:16s
Release Date: January 29, 2008
UPC: 012569701380
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BA-A C-

DVD Review

It seems that there's a lot of staying power in the paranoid classic The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Remade in 1978, it returns for yet another generation in 2007, with a somewhat different approach that preys on current fears of bioterrorism and infectious disease to spin the familiar nightmare with a new face. Although it has some misplaced emphases that will cause eye-rolling at times, on the whole it takes the suspense element inherent in the tale and runs with it to excellent effect.

Nicole Kidman headlines the cast as Dr. Carol Bennell, a divorced psychiatrist who is devoted to her young son Oliver (Jackson Bond). She's in the midst of a messy ucustody battle with Oliver's father, Tucker Kaufman (Jeremy Northam), who is behaving oddly after investigating a fatal crash of the space shuttle. Before long, it becomes clear that something has come back from space and it has taken over Tucker and millions of others, recombining their DNA when they fall asleep to make them into docile simulacra with a hive mind. Infected by Tucker, Carol must try to stay awake and get Oliver out of his father's clutches and get to find safety, aided by her friend Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig).

Unlike other versions of the story, there's a certain ambivalence in the threat that the invaders pose, reflected in the newscasts incessantly playing in the background. Starting off with news of terrorism and brutal bloodshed, before long there are stories of peace, reconciliation and international cooperation (including a hilarious one involving President Bush and Hugo Chavez). It's almost as if the creators, like the pod people (though there are no actual pods in this version), see assimilation as a positive good that is the only hope for humanity. That gives an odd but not unreasonable perspective to the familiar themes of infection and loss of identity that formed the foci of the prior versions. That shifted perspective is expressed most poignantly in a sequence in which a wife voluntarily submits to infection in order to be with her husband.

Some of the casting is excellent; Kidman and Bond work together superbly and have a very credible bond that hardly feels like standard issue movie parenting. The same can't be said for her relationship with Ben, which never quite gels. Her resistance to getting romantically involved with him forms one of several interesting parallels to the invaders, as she tries to suppress her emotions so as not to stand out to the mobs of the infected. Among others, there's the ironic counterpoint of Carol prescribing medication to give her patients exactly the same unemotional life that the invaders produce. Kidman turns in a superb performance here, playing someone distraght vainly attempting to have a flat affect. But by the same token, their relationship doesn't feel very well developed and only there for plot points and to provide exposition. Many scenes are stolen by Veronica Cartwright (a veteran of the 1978 version), one of Carol's distraught patients who believes her husband has been replaced. That's not the only reference to past versions, since we also get the obligatory "They're here!" from a woman banging on passing cars, although for some reason Kevin McCarthy doesn't manage to show up anywhere that I saw. Also in the inexplicable column, Tucker is given a girlfriend who is made out to be of some importance, and then she disappears completely from the picture (perhaps we're missing some substantial deleted scenes?)

Another point that doesn't work is that the inexorable closing in of doom is dispelled by an absurd action sequence near the end, with dozens of pod people clinging to Bennell's car as she tries to drive to safety, culminating in a long series of crashes that leaves her car implausibly driveable. A little of this would have gone a long way; as it is it's typical producer Joel Silver overkill that takes one entirely out of the movie. The finale has more than a little deus ex machina and lacks the bleak hopelessness of the original, which is a bit disappointing. Otherwise, director Oliver Hirschbiegel does a good job of keeping the fear quotient high, while also touching some very human emotions as friends, family and loved ones becomes something unrecognizable. There are a few quite disgusting moments, mostly thanks to the AIDS-inspired infection through the transfer of bodily fluids. That's most effective and horrifying in the scene where Tucker infects Carol, with nearly every aspect of the harrowing sequence nothing less than a brutal rape, with an equally appalling finale. That does lead to some seeming inconsistencies; at times the pod people shed their docile behavior when it comes to threatening Carol or anyone who is not yet infected. Perhaps the invaders are nearly as xenophobic as we are.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.85:1 - n/a
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes
Anamorphicnoyes


Image Transfer Review: The combo HD DVD features a very nice VC-1 encode that offers excellent textures and superb grain structure that preserves the filmlike appearance without being distractingly sparkly. Detail is quite good, though on occasion modest edge enhancement is visible. It's much more severe on the bonus features than on the movie itself, however. On the whole it's a quite pleasing viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
+
English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The English track is available only as a TrueHD lossless track, although there are DD+ 5.1 French and Spanish tracks. The mix has a solid impact with plenty of directionality, especially in the passing vehicles and a helicopter early on that seems to pass directly overhead John Ottman's pounding score has great impact as do the frequent sound effects. There's nothing disappointing here.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Elite
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The extra features are a little sketchy, but at least they're all presented in HD. Three featurettes smack of EPK fluff materials. The Invasion: A New Story (2m:57s) offers little more than puffery from cast and crew. The Invasion: On the Set (3m:23s) is almost a insubstantial, with a bit about filming in Washington DC, although there is at least some interesting behind-the-scenes material present. The Invasion: Snatched (3m:15s) is the most interesting of the three, as it offers a look at some of the effects work for the nasty transformation sequences.

Far more substantial is We've Been Snatched Before: Invasion in Media History (18m:53s), which takes a look at the allegorical aspects of the earlier versions as they related to the Cold War and cults, and comparing it to this version and its backdrop of SARS, avian flu and the easy transportability of disease in the present, magnified by media fearmongering. It's modestly interesting though not terribly in depth. A trailer and some deleted scenes would have been nice, but no such luck. Nor is there any discussion of the production's troubled history, with extensive reshooting and rewrites by the Wachowski brothers. Maybe some day there will be an interesting DVD release of this picture that dishes out some dirt, but this isn't that one.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

An uneven but undeniably creepy and suspenseful reimagining of the classic for modern sensibilities, headlined by a fine performance from Kidman.

 


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