Friday, October 22, 2021

Invasion, on Apple TV+

This must be an alternate universe, because in this reality we still have troops stationed in Afghanistan. Unfortunately for them, they are about to encounter something even more dangerous than al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Our over-the-horizon capabilities won’t make much difference either, because the strange alien force is bent on complete planetary domination. People from different walks of life in several different countries respond to the global crisis in co-creators Simon Kinberg & David Weil’s Invasion, which premieres today on Apple TV+.

This is Sheriff John Bell Tyson’s last day wearing the badge, but something just doesn’t feel right to him. Maybe it will be explained by the final call he responds to. Also in America, Aneesha Malik, looks after her children as best she can, even though she just discovered her husband has been unfaithful to her. That would be the same husband whom she sacrificed her medical career to marry.

Meanwhile, Mitsuki Yamato prepares the last technical checks for a historic manned Japanese space flight. She is especially diligent, because Captain Murai is her secret lover. Over in England, Casper Morrow (who suffers from unexplained seizures) is about to leave on a school field trip, with his crush, Jamila Huston, and his primary bully. Finally, in Afghanistan, we meet Trevante Ward, a U.S. Special Forces Operator, who devotedly looks after his own men in the field to compensate for a family tragedy back home.

Then all heck breaks lose, but Kinberg & Weil never really give us a comprehensive overview of the interplanetary struggle. Instead, they give us fractured perspectives, such as that of the English schoolchildren, whose bus is trapped in crater. Obviously,
Invasion would not exist without War of the Worlds and its many film and TV adaptations. In a way, it tries to combine the average-Joe POV of Spielberg’s disappointing War of the Worlds and the scientifically trained perspective of Dr. Clayton Forrester in the classic George Pal-produced War of the Worlds. Just as Pal’s film is vastly superior to Spielberg’s, the sequences featuring Yamato and Ward are much more interesting than those featuring the kids and the Malik family. As for the good Sheriff, you might just forget he was in this show after the first episode.

These inconsistencies are exacerbated by the slow pacing of the early episodes. Honestly, they should reach the point of the sixth or seventh installments by the end of the third. It basically takes a full episode for the Maliks to get from their house to their car—and its just parked in their driveway.

However, the cast is quite strong and in many cases very distinguished. The great Golshifteh Farahani (who has been banned from her native Iran since 2009) is terrific as Malik, even though she is stuck in the show’s most melodramatic story-arc. Yet, Shamier Anderson truly drives the series, even more than her, with his riveting performance as Ward.

Shiori Kutsuna is credible and compelling as the highly intelligent but socially awkward Yamato. She also probably has some of the show’s most poignant scenes opposite Rinko Kikuchi and Togo Igawa, who are both memorable and engaging as Murai and her slightly estranged father. There are also a bunch of kids in this show, the best of which is probably India Brown as down-to-earth Huston. She is very good, but viewers will quickly tire of the
Lord of the Flies business that traps her character. (And of course, Kiwi Sam Nail plays yet another Oklahoma sheriff.)

By its very nature, there are not a lot of grand visual effects in
Invasion. Wisely, Kinberg & Weil maintain a sense of mystery about the aliens well into the middle episodes, keeping them only half-seen under chaotic circumstances. Yet, science fiction fans will be frustrated that most of the real sf stuff only happens during Yamato’s storyline, whereas much of the Malik and Morrow arcs have the tone of an earthly disaster movie.

can be frustrating, but Yamato’s intriguing cosmic investigation and the work from Anderson, Farahani, Kutsuna, Kikuchi, and Togawa are sufficiently strong to keep fans tuning in for subsequent episodes. Max Richter’s stark score also lends it all a touch of class. Recommended for fans of the alien invasion sub-genre, who value character portrayal over effects and action set-pieces, Invasion starts streaming today (10/22) on Apple TV+.