Total Recall: The Invasion Joins A Long List Of Paranoia Movies
Celebrating the cinema of fear: M, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Conversation.The Invasion, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, hit theaters, spinning a tale of a world in which an epidemic strips everyday people of their emotions, creating fear in the hearts of the ininfected. Time will tell if The Invasion is remembered as a movie that captured something about the way we live in the 2000s (though with its 21 percent Tomatometer score, that seems unlikely), but one thing is for certain: It's the latest in a long line of films that attempt to grapple with our collective anxiety in uncertain times.
Perhaps, in this age of domestic spying and alleged sleeper cells, we're more anxious than ever. If nothing else, filmmakers have certainly found much to mine from our collective angst; in 2007 alone, such varied films as The Bourne Ultimatum, Disturbia, The Lives Of Others, Red Road, and Civic Duty have hit screens. Despite profoundly different settings and methods of execution, what these films share is a sense of unease, be it in the form of vast machinations exerting greater control over our lives, or a sneaking suspicion that someone's watching.
M is a forerunner to cinema's most paranoia-minded subgenres (film noir, serial killer flicks, police procedurals), and certainly David Fincher owes a debt to the film; both Se7en (84 percent) and Zodiac (88 percent) borrow from its bleak, shadowy palette. As Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader writes, "The moral issues are complex and deftly handled: Lorre is at once entirely innocent and absolutely evil. Lang's detached, modified expressionist style gives the action a plastic beauty." It's at 100 percent on the Tomatometer.
However one reads it, there's no denying Body Snatchers has proven to be one of the most durable and influential sci-fi films of the 1950s, inspiring everything from Shaun of the Dead (90 percent) to Signs (74 percent). And it's at 100 percent on the Tomatometer. "Its title implies that it's something you might watch for its campy comic value," writes Audrey Rock-Richardson of The Tooele Transcript Bulletin, "but it's flat-out nightmarish.
Caul's attempt to get at the truth result in a chilling embodiment of the old adage: "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone's not after you." Featuring hypnotic sound editing from Walter Murch, as well as one of Gene Hackman's finest performances, The Conversation "grapples with the moral issue at stake in a country where technology has outstripped our knowledge of how to use and control it," writes Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat of Spirituality and Practice. At 97 percent on the Tomatometer, this "masterpiece of modern-day paranoia is far more than a simple rehashing of a classic slice of cinema. It proves to be more prescient now than ever," says Shannon J. Harvey of Australia's Sunday Times.
These movies are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Whenever there's a collective unease, someone will make a film like Panic in the Streets (92 percent), The Manchurian Candidate (100 percent), or V for Vendetta (72 percent) that taps into our sense of fear.