The Invisible Man

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

The Invisible Man
dir-scr Leigh Whannell
prd Jason Blum, Kylie Du Fresne
with Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Benedict Hardie, Amali Golden, Sam Smith, Zara Michales, Anthony Brandon Wong, Nash Edgerton
release US/UK 28.Feb.20
20/Australia Universal 2h04

jackson-cohen hodge reid

Writer-director Leigh Whannell takes his own distinctive swing at HG Wells' classic novel, recasting it as a horror movie with a female empowerment kick. These elements work well, with freak-out moments, genuine nastiness and provocative themes. So it's a shame the script is so lazy about plugging gaps in logic that pepper the plot. Of course, these lapses are there because Whannell is working so diligently to manipulate us.
In the middle of the night, Cecilia (Moss) escapes from her harshly controlling inventor boyfriend Adrian (Jackson-Cohen), fleeing to her sister Emily (Dyer) and taking refuge in the fixer-upper home of her cop boyfriend James (Hodge) and his bright teen daughter Sydney (Reid). Two weeks later she learns that Adrian is dead, so she begins getting on with her life. But something isn't right, as Cecilia senses someone haunting her, messing with her and making everyone else think she's crazy.
The title tips the audience off as to what's going on, so Whannell has fun with insinuating camerawork, subtle effects and imagery and sounds carefully designed to mess with our heads. Meanwhile, contrived plotting puts the characters right where he wants them. As the tension grows, creepiness turns into mayhem and full-on terror, with a string of grotesquely violent surprises. All of this is cleverly constructed to pile grisliness on top of emotional devastation.

Moss is terrific as usual, also shining in the astonishingly physical action set pieces. This is a strong depiction of an abused woman who does everything she can to turn tables and right wrongs. And Moss anchors the film in Cecilia's vivid feelings of vulnerability and tenacity. Hodge is particularly good as the sceptical cop, and Reid holds her own as a smart young woman who is never remotely helpless. Dorman also has a superb role as Adrian's smarmy lawyer brother. Jackson-Cohen is great too, but he's barely there.

Where the story heads would have a lot more impact if it held water. But the production design, music and editing combine with solid acting and directing to continually push the audience into the same corners as Cecilia, because only we know that she's not losing her mind. In the final half hour, a coda pushes things even further, as Whannell proves that he hasn't forgotten a single loose thread that he's left dangling along the way. It's a finely crafted movie, and it knows it. But while the ending is satisfying, it just might send the wrong message entirely.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 25.Feb.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall