“There’s always someone looking out for us” – Invasion Planet Earth (Film Review)

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After the death of his young daughter, Tom Dunn is a broken man. When his wife falls pregnant again, he cannot believe their luck. However, his joy is short-lived, on the very same day, the people of Earth become plagued with terrifying visions of the end of the world.

When a gigantic, all-consuming alien mothership appears in the sky and launches a ruthless attack on Earth’s cities, chaos and destruction follow!

Tom must find the strength and wisdom to save his wife and unborn child. However, first, he must confront a shocking truth. A truth which threatens the key to the survival of the human race.

The ultimate war for Planet Earth is about to begin…

Almost a decade from script to screen, the labour of love that is Invasion Planet Earth is bold, ambitious, with tongue in cheek humour that occasionally pops up in an otherwise solid science-fiction drama. It will appeal to fans of the science fiction genre from all eras, particularly. It may be pitched, by marketing people, as a British Independence Day (there’s a nod to that in the dialogue), but it’s far from that as Simon Cox, writer and director, flits between drama, science fiction and action with deft awareness of just how preposterous his story is. The story does deliver a tale that has depth and weight amongst its familiar “aliens attack earth” trope, especially as the truth is revealed.

The script is loaded with tongue in cheek moments that exist outside of the central dialogue, leaving the core cast to deliver a much deeper than it need be story. Watching Simon Haycock, as Tom Dunn, go from shattered man to hero is a journey in itself and he pulls it off relatively well.

Visually and thematically engaging, humorous and an achievement in film-making, this is Cox’s first writing credit and he’s brought his experience of documentary work and other areas of film and television to bear, giving us a film that wouldn’t have been out of place as a British science-fiction miniseries. It’d be easy to suggest that Cox is overloading his lead character with burdens – lost daughter, pregnant wife, work issues, family trouble – but it’s not inconceivable that these issues could all affect one’s life in a short period of time. Then there’s the premonitions and the actual alien attack.

Watching Invasion Planet Earth, it’s a film that skews closer to Torchwood in its idea of domestic life mixed with astounding events than any other series. The interaction between Tom and Mandy (played by Lucy Drive) feels heartfelt, almost as if Cox were echoing a story he knows well).

As the alien invasion starts, the film gives us some creative CGI moments, though there’s a couple of moments where scale becomes an issue. Opting to avoid an overly stylised look for its alien crafts, they look more practical and less perfect than would probably be seen in some low budget science fiction – no smooth, shiny surfaces here. The CGI and visual effects team are clearly not working with millions of pounds here, and it does show from time to time, especially as the visual effects team become more ambitious with their depiction of an alien invasion. That said, there is a scene set in Birmingham that is visually impressive and well executed. Overall, the visual work is not bad and there are some practical effects that work quite well, too. It’s closer to modern Doctor Who effects than classic series.

The acting, very much like some of the special effects work, isn’t bad, but it is certainly variable. None of the characters come across as strict film stereotypes and much of the dialogue is underplayed in its delivery – there’s little in the way of histrionics or alpha male posturing. Even in its most over-the-top moments, the cast manages to be reserved in their reaction, almost as if the “stiff upper lip” British mentality has prevailed, or the performances themselves are okay.

The biggest failing of Invasion Planet Earth is that it genuinely would have worked much better as a TV mini-series. We only get a sense of the difficulties of the other characters, in particular, Sophie Anderson’s Samantha and Julie Hoult’s Harriet. We do see something of why these characters are as damaged as they are (and we do get cameos from Toyah Wilcox and Ben Shockley as part of these stories), but there’s much more that could have been told. The invasion of Earth itself could have benefited immensely from the extended time to tell the story, as could the implications of the taking of inhabitants of Earth and the aftermath of the truth.

Bearing in mind that Invasion Planet Earth wasn’t funded by a big film studio – Cox sought the funding himself from investors – this isn’t a film that could just spend, spend, spend to fill in any shortcomings and it occasionally shows. It is, however, an achievement in itself, a decade long dream brought to life and more entertaining for its story than for its, admittedly, impressive look.  This is the sort of low budget science fiction film that deserves to be seen.

Dir: Simon Cox

Scr: Simon Cox, Simon Bovey

Cast: Simon Haycock, Lucy Drive, Julie Houtl, Danny Steele, Sophie Anderson

Prd: Simon Cox

DOP: Gordon Hickie

Country: United Kingdom

Year: 2019

Runtime: 92 mins

More details for Invasion Planet Earth can be found here https://www.invasionplanetearth.com/

Invasion Planet Earth can be seen in UK cinemas from 5th December and then on Digital Download from 16th December

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