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Infected is a good looking movie (apart from the cheesy CG effects) but it fails to provide much depth to justify the slick presentation. This thrown together Sci Fi Channel effort pairs (some) talented actors with an implausible idea and an often silly script to provide a less then memorable movie experience.
Ostensibly, Infected is a thriller in the grand conspiracy, aliens are coming to eat our brains and eyeballs genre. Gil Bellows and Maxim Roy play Ben and Lisa, reporters at a Boston newspaper. Ben writes silly "mystery science" supplements and Lisa is on the city beat. Isabella Rossellini plays Carla, their editor. Lisa has been contacted by an informant who is alleging that the City of Boston is in league with the mysterious Whitefield company to somehow pass on the "Boston Plague" to hapless Bostonians, for unknown, though clearly sinister, reasons.
After the informant shoots the mayor to death in the lobby of City Hall, things really get going. Just prior to being killed by police, the informant passes along to Ben a vial of blood he extracted from the mayor. Ben and Lisa take the blood to a friend of Ben's who works at a sperm bank to have it tested, apparently for alien-ness. Jesse Todd plays Knutt (pronounced Newt), the sperm bank technician, and gives the most enjoyable performance of the film as an awkward, too smart yet funny nerd.
The plot only gets more complicated from here. Judd Nelson appears as Malcolm, the righteous traitor of the alien race, desperately trying to stop their plan of world domination. The reader might wonder whether the revelation in the previous sentence of the presence of aliens and a plot to do something nasty to the earth constitutes a "spoiler". Sadly, it does not. The film spoils itself, by revealing in the first five minutes that aliens are masquerading as humans and regularly having major characters discuss candidly their plans throughout the film. This quickly drains much of the intrigue and suspense from things. The filmmakers would have been better served to leave the big reveals to the second half of the film, and keep the audience guessing. As it is, the major points of the alien conspiracy are known very early on.
From this point forward, the film mostly consists of Ben and Lisa careening around Boston trying to figure out things the audience already knows, and acting in ways that don't seem to conform to normal human behavior. They are not alone in that last regard. Characters often behave in puzzling ways, or react to situations differently than most normal people would. And these are not the alien characters, who could be expected to be a bit off. When Ben is betrayed by one of his only friends, he doesn't scream or rage or even look hurt. The response to being led to almost certain death by someone he trusts is to shrug his shoulders and move on. This leaves aside his failure to realize or even suspect that he was walking into a trap, which should have been obvious to anyone who has ever watched a handful of science fiction films, let alone a seasoned reporter.
These are not the only examples of sloppy writing. The plot often wanders into nonsensical cul-de-sacs, leaving numerous unanswered questions. Several elaborate plans to defeat the aliens are abandoned without ceremony, and the exciting climax consists of a bloody arm being jammed into a water pipe and an elevator exploding. The characterizations are thin as well, and the actors (with the notable exception of Jesse Todd as Knutt) merely phone in their performances. Bellows, Rossellini and Nelson can't be bothered to put forth an effort or inject any passion into their roles, and the other actors are competent at best, working with mediocre material.
Having said that, Infected looks remarkably good for the type of film it is, excepting the only average CG effects. The sets, lighting, locations and camera work are all professional and slick. The newspaper office feels like a real newspaper office, and the secret alien compound feels like an appropriate place to hatch larvae from human hosts. It's a shame that this high quality craftsmanship is so ill used here. Viewers will forgive middling CG effects if there is a tight plot, good performances and the film looks good otherwise. Alas, Infected is not such a case.
This is not to say that Infected is entirely without merit or is not enjoyable on some level. It has fun moments and interesting ideas, and is not particularly painful to watch. Its short run time and faithful, if flawed, effort in a time honored sub-genre of film provide a low level pleasure that justifies a rental on an otherwise uncluttered day. Beyond that, it's not worth the effort.
The video is presented in 1.66:1 widescreen, and is very good. The image is clear and crisp, with sharp contrasts. The colors are deep and pop off the screen. Shadows are finely graded and never obscure the action. The film is free of artifacts or other imperfections. This is a remarkably good looking film, considering the lack of effort on display in other areas.
The sound is in Dolby digital 5.1 channel, and is also quite good. The sound is clear and the dialogue is always audible. There is a nice separation, with the sound coming from all sides. With the subtle but well timed use of the LFE channel, the action scenes are particularly effective. Audio is available in English only, with no subtitles available.
There are no extras on Infected except an unrelated trailer. Something of a disappointment, but the film is light weight enough that it is not surprising.
Infection is a good looking, slickly produced film that fails to live up to its potential. The theme of secret alien invasion is a tad shopworn, but still has material to exploit. This film fails to exploit it well, however. A sometimes silly, and often confusing script coupled with actors who are either not up to the challenge or not concerned with meeting it makes a lethal combination of mediocrity. It provides a few simple pleasures, but nothing remarkable.