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Having suffered through the last two installments of the
heavy-breathing Twilight Saga, I wasn’t eager to see the latest film based on a
novel by Stephenie Meyer. The only reason I had any hope was the presence of
Saoirse Ronan in the leading role—and indeed, this uncommonly gifted Irish
actress is the main reason the film doesn’t completely implode.

The time is the future. Earth is at peace because human
beings have been replaced by aliens, who now inhabit their bodies. These supposedly
nonviolent creatures have already taken over other planets, with equal success.
But some humans still remain, like Melanie Stryder (Ronan), who is willing to
die rather than surrender and abandon her little brother and boyfriend.

Diane Kruger plays The Seeker, a steely figure who sees to
it that Melanie ultimately submits. She doesn’t realize that her latest
victim’s spirit is so strong that it survives inside the mind of her new
“host,” who’s known as The Wanderer. (I’m not making this up.)

At this point, fairly early on, The Wanderer, easily
identifiable by her creepy, luminescent eyes, discovers that she’s in a
constant tug-of-war with her former “self.” Only an actress as expressive as
Ronan could pull this off without looking ludicrous.

But what she is able to avoid the film itself cannot.
Melanie prods The Wanderer to travel to a remote spot where Mel’s wise old
uncle (William Hurt) looks after a small colony of human survivors, including her
little brother and boyfriend (Max Irons). Most of these desperate folks don’t
trust the new, creepy-eyed girl who looks like the old Melanie—but Hurt does. And
wouldn’t you just know, a love triangle emerges as one of the hunky young guys
falls in love with The Wanderer while Irons rekindles his feelings for the “inner”
Melanie. It’s Team Edward and Team Jacob all over again, but even cheesier,
supported by the same kind of new-agey music that dominated the recent Twilight episodes.

I expected something better from writer-director Andrew
Niccol, whose track record is spotty (S1mOne,
Lord of War, In Time
) but whose ambitions are great. Even a writer as
experienced as he couldn’t make the densely cluttered denouement of The Host understandable to a simple
viewer like me.

The saving grace of this silly movie is Saoirse Ronan. She
validates The Host, as much as anyone
could, the way Jennifer Lawrence anchors The
Hunger Games
. Watching her radiant face, and hearing her flawless American
accent, is almost worth the price of admission. Almost. 

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