“The Invisible Man” is a reboot of Universal’s The Invisible Man film franchise, and the latest Blumhouse produced film to arrive in cinemas this year.
Written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Upgrade), the film features Elisabeth Moss, who plays Cecilia Kass, a woman who escapes her abusive relationship with a Zuckerberg-esque rich scientist named Adrian Griffin, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. A couple of weeks after her escape, Cecilia is informed that Adrian has committed suicide and she has inherited five million dollars. Despite her initial sense of relief, Cecilia quickly begins to realize that things don’t add up when an invisible presence is sabotaging her attempts to start a new life.
From the very start, the film offers a masterful execution of suspense. Whannell knows how to shoot nerve-racking scenes, he plays with the camera and the surroundings in ways that leave the audience in a constant state of anxiety. Shot in an extremely constrained budget, the framing of empty spaces is an essential part of why the film is effective, part of the charm is relentlessly staring at the screen trying to take in all the little details, in the hopes of noticing something move, something that tells us where our titular invisible man is. This filmmaking choice only works because Elizabeth Moss is an excellent actor. The film could have easily derailed without all the psychological layers that Moss gives to her character. However, it is not only in the suspense department where the film shines. The film has some good jump-scares too. There’s a particular jump-scare spoiled in the latest promotional trailer that is accompanied by fantastic sound design and will bring chills down your spine when you least expect it.
The technical aspects and overall execution of the film manage to persuade the audience to not pay a lot of attention to obvious plot-holes and inconsistencies of the script. These inconsistencies range from silly to infuriating. It feels at times that Cecilia’s friends and family are purposely choosing to not believe her and, even though this is a classic trope within these types of stories, it could tarnish the film for some people. Nonetheless, the narrative is compelling and the final act –plus what could be considered an epilogue– grants the much-needed catharsis after two hours of watching Elisabeth Moss suffer. When the workings of our villain’s invisibility are revealed, the film doesn’t take a cheesy magical science route. Instead, the explanation is much more grounded in technological “reality”, or at least within the realm of possibility.
This revamping of The invisible man is not going to redefine cinema — there’s a whole subgenre of thrillers based upon the idea of a woman believed to be crazy (The Girl on the Train 2016, Unsane 2018, The Woman in the Window 2020). But this iteration brings a breath of fresh air. Perhaps because as a society we are much more inclined to believe and side with women now (although there’s work to be done still), or perhaps it is entirely thanks to Moss’ acting — it is hard to imagine any other actor playing this role. Cecilia has lived considering every step, every word, every decision, very carefully. The film is very clear on this stance from the moment we see her escaping Adrian’s home. Every variable has been considered. Adrian’s suicide doesn’t make sense to her because she knows that abusers don’t intentionally give up control. From that point onwards, Cecilia’s mission is to fight to tell her story and regain agency. “The Invisible Man” is, in essence, a masterful-executed fun film about believing survivors, wrapped around a suspense horror-thriller bow.