Film Review: The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man (MA)

Directed by: Leigh Whannell

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge

Four and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright
Saw co-creator Leigh Whannell has taken the tropes of two disparate sub-genres (domestic drama and sci-fi thriller), weaved them together and created one of the most intense, intriguing, smartly scripted re-imaginings of a classic story.

Having proven his scripting skills with the surprising and twisty Saw, then most recently his stylistic flair with a camera with his directorial effort Upgraded, Whannell has solidified himself as an exciting film maker to watch.

From the opening moments, Whannell puts us on edge with his updated version of The Invisible Man, as Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) slips from the grip of her controlling and abusive boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in the middle of the night to escape from him and his fortress-like beach-side mansion.

Soon after, his lawyer Tom (Michael Dorman) informs her that Adrian has committed suicide and as per his will, she inherits $5 million on the condition that she does not commit a crime or deemed mentally unstable.

But Cecilia is not convinced Adrian is dead, with spooky things happening around her new home that indicate he has faked his own death, discovered a way of becoming invisible and is driving her batty with his new abilities.

With everyone around her concerned for her mental state, Cecilia must prove her theory, which becomes an increasingly difficult task when her theory sounds so crazy and Adrian systematically driving a wedge between her and her family and friends.

TIM

Whannell’s commitment to suspense, tension building and a palpable sense of dread right from the get-go, puts him up there alongside horror greats John Carpenter and Stanley Kubrick.

And he doesn’t let up for a second. This is two hours of sweat-inducing, deeply unsettling thrills.

His intelligent script doesn’t waste a second with superfluous scenes or dialogue, most of the key scenes playing out in seemingly real time, the camera often lingering, forcing our eyes to every corner of the frame searching for proof of Adrian’s presence, to achieve maximum tension. But Whannell also commits to some shockingly brazen moments, jolting the audience at just the right moments.

In addition to the technical achievements, this is first and foremost a character driven story, with the science taking a backseat. Moss is gifted a multi-dimensional character that has a vast range, and she meets the challenge, putting her alongside recent breakout horror performances such as Toni Collette (Hereditary), Lupita Nyong’O (Us) and Florence Pugh (Midsommar).

But the scariest thing is how deeply layered Adrian’s actions, motivations and manipulations are. He is more than a controlling nutcase with a chip on his shoulder. His intricate plan is terrifyingly multi-layered, and for a character that is given so little screen time, his constant oppressive presence is astounding.

At times the relentless stalking and mental and emotional torture of Cecilia is difficult to endure, and yet it scarily successfully (perhaps among the most successful in recent attempts since the #MeToo era) taps into what survivors of abuse go through – it’s not just the physical bruises, but the psychological impacts that are felt deepest.

In fact, it is a timely reminder that sometimes what you can’t see can be the most terrifying. You can, however, see The Invisible Man and it is a film you will want to see more than once.

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