Invasion Review: Sam Neill's series tackles complex human emotions amid a global alien attack
Invasion Cast: Sam Neill, Golshifteh Farahani, Shioli Kutsuna
Invasion Creators: Simon Kinberg, David Weil
Streaming Platform: AppleTV+
Invasion Stars: 3/5
In Simon Kinberg and David Weil's new series, Invasion, as extraterrestrials wreak havoc across the globe, I couldn't help but think about JP Saxe and Julia Michaels' If the World Was Ending song. It was this track during the pandemic that made me question what my response to a global catastrophe would be and the new AppleTV+ series is about just that. It may be titled Invasion, hinting that an alien attack but one can say that it's less about the invasion itself than its aftermath and the human response to it. With the first three episodes of the show premiering first and the consequent episodes releasing weekly on the platform, one can say that it's a long journey to process your own feelings about crisis response.
The series takes off with unknown explosions taking place all across the globe as we meet different characters who find themselves in the midst of this chaos. From Oklahoma's Sheriff John Bell Tyson (Sam Neill) who finds his most interesting case just when he thought he was retiring to a bunch of school kids stranded amidst a massive gorge created by the explosion in the UK, everyone finds themselves in situations unheard of. Perhaps, the most interesting though is the storyline following, Long Island's Aneesha (Golshifteh Farahani) who learns about her husband Ahmed's (Firas Nassar )infidelity and is battling at dual fronts as she tries to keep her children safe during the invasion as well as processes the feelings of being betrayed by her husband for a "white blonde woman." Yet another character that keeps us invested is Mitsuki (Shioli Kutsuna) a JASA ground specialist who loses her lover on a space mission that goes wrong following an unknown attack.
While it seems like a tedious job to keep up with the storylines of all these characters in the backdrop of the alien invasion, it almost gives you the illusion of being seated behind a desk with massive CCTV screens that take you through each global incident. Even though it's the alien threat that's the unexpected, what the series will actually show you is that its human nature that is even more unpredictable and can work in the most mysterious ways. It's those small moments, when Aneesha steals a car at the supermarket or how a bunch of school kids continue to bully Casper (Billy Barratt) even as he tries to save their teacher after their bus gets into an accident landing them up in the isolated gorge. It's also seen in Mitsuki's mother's words as she terms her daughter's lover's death a "gift" only because she can't fathom the idea of a same-sex relationship. It's watching these characters feel alienated beings among their own that makes for interesting brain fodder.
When it comes to works of the pop culture surrounding alien invasions, the focus always remains on the physical embodiment of them. Do they have big eyes? Do they have antler-like hands? There's plenty of films and shows that have tinkered with the idea of what extraterrestrials look like and Invasion seems to stray away from it for the most part. The series tries to maintain the fear of the unknown for a quite long, thus keeping us guessing about what will eventually show up. Some may find this process a tad slow and possibly even worse when they have to wait weekly for an episode to hit the streaming platform. I'll say it will build your patience for sure. Whether bingeing the series to finally unravel who the threat seems like a better option, there's no denying that the simmering tension with each episode could keep you invested more and feel slightly less disappointed by all the silliness of it.
The show's production design looks well-suited in terms of scale. As timezones and countries move, we feel the presence of it. The cliched and cluttered Long Island home belonging to Aneesha compared to Mitsuki's minimalist lifestyle in Japan convey to great lengths the distinctions between the two characters not only geographical but also as their personas.
For genre nerds who are into films like Independence Day or War Of The Worlds, Invasion doesn't promise the kind of urgent action that you may be looking for. It's on the slower end as it simmers in its own stew to find its feet while trying to avoid cliches. It's no Arrival though that it will blow your mind in ways only a storyteller like Denis Villeneuve could. The series finds itself somewhere in the middle where it doesn't get too bold and induce cringe with its dramatic elements but neither does it make you say wow.
For me, in terms of performance, it's Golshifteh Farahani and Shioli Kutsuna who drive Invasion to its best points. They bring to their characters the kind of vulnerabilities one can absolutely relate to when the situation gets tough. As Aneesha, Farahani conveys great emotion without ever really saying much. Not to mention, for Jurassic Park fans, you get Sam Neill having his Dr. Grant moment but this time as a local Sheriff. The actor's perplexed expression on discovering the alien invasion point in a field is no less than the one when he first laid eyes on Dinosaurs in the popular franchise.
All in all, Invasion is a series that will make you introspect what kind of a survivor will you be if an alien attack was to happen. With the series hinting that an alien invasion could result in leaving our signals all smashed up and screens glitchy, my first thought to it certainly was, what use will all these streaming subscriptions be if they can't help me get through doomsday?