Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Invisible Man (2020): A Review


This ain't your father's or grandfather's Invisible Man. The newest adaptation of the H.G. Wells' novel works on nearly all levels but does not quite land the ending.

Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) flees her abusive boyfriend, millionaire optics engineer Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in the middle of the night. Sheltered by family friend, Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge), Cecilia is terrified of leaving the house, convinced Adrian will find and recapture her. Her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer), however, brings good news: Adrian has committed suicide.

Adrian's brother Tom (Michael Dorman) gives Cecilia surprising news too: Adrian has left her $5 million in his will provided she commits no crimes or is found mentally unstable. Slowly Cecilia begins to rebuild her life, bonding with James' daughter Sydney (Storm Reid) and seeking out employment as the architect she trained as.

It isn't long though before strange things begin happening around and to her. She begins to believe Adrian is not only still alive but has made himself invisible, literally ghosting her in a master plot of revenge for leaving him. While she knows he is still there, no one else believes her. Cecilia finds herself in a series of insane situations: Sydney "sees" her slap her around, witnesses "see" her murder Emily, and in the asylum Emily's locked in for the murder, she discovers she's pregnant.

Cecilia knows Adrian has discovered a way to make himself invisible, but she is trapped. With only her own wits, she takes matters into her own hands to reveal "the invisible man", with twists and turns to a bloody ending.

Image result for the invisible man 2020The Invisible Man does just about everything right. First, it does what I have long suggested: not be a franchise starter. Instead of being essentially a set-up for other films, in this case Universal's now-dead Dark Universe, The Invisible Man concentrates on the individual story itself. Freed from any sense of world-building, it is allowed to be its own entity. As such, we can concentrate on one story: Cecilia's.

This is the second thing The Invisible Man did right: give us a sympathetic heroine who was also strong in the end. A lot of the film has to be carried by Elisabeth Moss, especially given that she essentially has to "act" with no one around her. Moss gives one of the best performances of the year: Cecilia's fears coupled with her growing realization of the dangers she's in and determination to do Adrian in makes for absolutely riveting viewing.

The Invisible Man does not make Cecilia either all-powerful or eternally weak. In an insane situation, Moss makes her plight believable, the hallmark of great acting. She has to run through a gamut of emotions: her agoraphobia, her vulnerabilities, her comprehension, her rage. Moss never hits a wrong note in her performance.

Image result for the invisible man 2020
She is also helped by almost universally excellent performances from the other castmembers. Hodge is sensible and strong as James, the cop who wants to believe her but also knows there is no such thing as invisible men. Reid's Sydney comes across as a real teenager: sarcastic but also caring. Dorman's Tom is creepy enough to give one pause as to how much Adrian can control him, even from beyond the grave.

Dyer is mostly good, particularly her final scene down to its shocking conclusion, though I felt she was weak when she told Cecilia off after "receiving" a nasty email. It felt false to me. Jackson-Cohen is a very handsome man and leaves a strong impression as the abusive Adrian even if his role is very limited. We don't see him much at the beginning and the only real scene he has is at the end, with its own "shocking" conclusion.

Director Whannell is the third element in The Invisible Man that works well. Apart from directing his cast to almost all fine performances and crafting a script that is both logical and appropriately tense, he had a very strong visual style. Whannell built up a great deal of tension and suspense with very little. The opening scene for example uses both silences and sudden noises effectively and realistically. He also uses Benjamin Wallfisch's score and the visual effects to serve the story without drawing attention to themselves.

The only major flaw that I found in The Invisible Man is the ending. The "twist" is not unexpected. Far from it: I had guessed it long before we got the big reveal. It is after that though that things got a bit if not confusing a bit perplexing. Whether it should have ended at the reveal or tweaked it a bit to have the dead stay dead is a good question. It also does not exactly explain how things came about the way we saw them, nor does it genuinely justify the also not-surprising finale.

Apart from that though The Invisible Man is an exceptional film, one that should please fans of the genre as well as those who may not usually be drawn to horror or science-fiction. I'll say: The Invisible Man should definitely be seen. 


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