The Invisible Man proves an old classic can get dusted off to be a completely relevant and timely thriller for a new generation.
Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss, Us) is finally ready to split from her basically psychotic/overly possessive controlling boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Faster).
Adrian isn’t the type to just accept the “it’s not me, it’s you” breakup prompting Cecilia to take drastic measures to escape. Hoping to stay off Adrian’s radar, Cecilia stays with her sister, Emily’s (Harriet Dyer), friend Jake (Aldis Hodge, Hidden Figures) and his daughter, Snyder (Storm Reid, A Wrinkle in Time).
But why does Cecilia keep feeling like someone is watching her? Adrian’s brother, Tom (Michael Dorman), assures Cecilia she’s got nothing to worry about with some startling news, but Cecilia quickly has reason to question if her nightmare is truly over as an invisible menace starts stalking her.
Director/Writer Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) smartly plays up the fact that audiences know what’s in store and teases this hidden voyeur with distant camera angles, faraway perspectives and lingering shots of backgrounds. Maybe something will move if you pay close attention?
That’s a clever and unique way to keep the audience’s full attention through every moment of this unique game of cat and mouse. The execution of the invisible attacks is impressive with a balance of genuine thrills and intense action. If Whannell is still underrated at this point, he makes another strong case that he’s one of the modern masters in the smart thriller genre.
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Whannell’s approach with the invisible nature of the character is also smart utilizing technology as a means for this ability as opposed to a formula or accident. Even better, Cecilia doesn’t take too long to figure out how she’s being tormented.
Moss is terrific. She conveys the jittery nervousness of a woman who’s every moment has been tracked like someone under a microscope. In the tension filled opening act, Cecilia flees Adrian’s compound and goes through all these intricate steps to avoid being seen — actions repeated throughout the film by the Invisible Man.
Just as importantly, Cecilia isn’t treated as helpless. She’s very resourceful and isn’t stymied easily despite her predator seemingly having her in a no-win situation. Much like her Us co-star, Lupita Nyong’o, Moss gives a performance that really should be in strong contention for best of the year.
Cecilia makes a few questionable decisions, but never to the point that she becomes a frustrating protagonist. Whannell juggles making Cecilia look a little crazy without portraying James and Emily as annoying supporting characters for ignoring her concerns.
The easy default would be to just have every man ignore Cecilia and dismiss her concerns that she’s being stalked. James doesn’t blow her off, but has to take into account the…visible evidence in front of him. There’s some interesting underlined aspects of Hodge’s casting as black men have also been marginalized and viewed as less than. It’s nice to see Hodge in a key supporting role.
Whannell doesn’t take a sledgehammer to the #MeToo allegories, but you won’t have to think too hard to see them. I’ll leave the think pieces for other writers.
The middle act requires some suspension of disbelief namely that surveillance cameras don’t exist, but it’s in the interest of making for a more fitting and satisfying final act. For a film that at some points feels like Cecilia can’t win, Whannell serves up a deliciously effective and powerful ending that sticks long after the credits roll.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures