The Invisible Man

Dept. of Unseen Antagonists


Leigh Whannel’s The Invisible Man is a textbook example of how to breathe new life in to a tired old concept. Previous adaptations of H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel have usually focused on the man himself and his quest to become visible again but Whannel’s whip-smart reboot focuses on a woman who’s being terrorised by an invisible, abusive man.

We barely even see Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), Cecilia Kass’ (Elisabeth Moss) controlling boyfriend at the beginning of the film. We don’t need to be told about the pain and suffering he’s inflicted on her. It’s visible in every fearful movement she makes as she carries out what appears to be a long planned late night escape from his sprawling, soulless, modern home.

Even safely hidden at the home of her police friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid ), Cecilia isn’t quite free. She is constantly worried that Adrian will appear and take her away to re-exert his dominance over her. It’s only with the news that he’s committed suicide, that Cecilia can even begin to entertain the idea she might finally be free of him.

That’s when things get strange.

I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

Important documents go missing. Strange things go “bump” in the night. Has Adrian got such a stranglehold on Cecilia’s psyche that she can’t escape him, even in death, or could an optics expert like him actually have found a way to turn invisible?

Ignore the trailers for The Invisible Man, this is far from the formulaic sci-fi thriller they portray. Even the director himself says of the trailer: “you may think you’ve seen it all but you haven’t”.

It’s a credit to writer/director Whannel’s script and direction, that he manages to deliver a tense, hugely enjoyable and surprising thriller, without resorting to jump scares. He also manages to avoid almost every pitfall of the thriller genre that usually results in audiences rolling their eyes in frustration. Sure, Cecilia’s friends and sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) might not believe her insistence that Adrian is still alive but even though the audience knows what’s going on, it never feels like the people around her are being wilfully stupid just to increase the tension.

Not Your Average (Final) Girl

Once Cecilia figures out what’s going on, she doesn’t act like a vapid horror movie heroine either. She comes up with some very smart plans, both to protect herself and to find out what’s going on. Many of which never even occurred to me.

As expected Elisabeth Moss is fantastic. The logical choice for a film where her face is on screen 90% of the time and usually acting against nothing. She perfectly captures Cecilia’s desperation as the world turns against her, and the resolve that comes to the surface as she begins to takes back control of her life.

Even when acting smart, however, Whannel’s script, and villain, always seem to be one step ahead of her. Its amazing that so many of her well laid plans can be thwarted without leaving the audience feeling cheated. There’s a plot development, roughly halfway through the movie, when Cecilia seems to be gaining the upper hand and is making all the right decisions, that tore the breathe out of me in shock.

This film is tense AF.

High Tension

From this point onward Whannel is just showing off how good he is at pulling the rug out from under you. Yet it never feels forced or cheap. This isn’t a “twist movie”, so expecting one would ruin your enjoyment. It’s just constantly surprising in a good way.

With that said, some of the developments in the finale didn’t quite land for me. There’s an ambiguity to some of the final moments that I found didn’t mesh with what had come before, but it’s still an amazing ride.

Whannel’s direction is also incredibly stylish, belying the films $9 million budget. Early on, the director introduces a fantastic stylistic trick of occasionally panning to the left, or to the right of a scene, apparently just to set the mood. It’s a nice touch that the audience gets used to, before it becomes far more sinister when hinting at the spot where an invisible person could be standing. Waiting.

Composer Benjamin Wallfisch’s score also greatly aids in ratcheting up the tension. Progressing from rolling waves and heartbeats of bass to NIN style industrial screeches.

This is exactly how a remake should be handled. Instead of using the invisibility as an excuse to show off the latest in special effects (Hollow Man, Memoirs of an Invisible Man), or just updating an old story with a modern setting, The Invisible Man uses the core concept to explore the social themes of abuse and overly controlling men and provides a satisfying clap back in the form of of one woman’s defiance.

Highly recommended.

The Invisible Man
124 minutes
Director: Leigh Whannell
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, and Michael Dorman

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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