The Invisible Man was one of The Dark Universe monsters in the stable of Universal Pictures.
It was originally intended that The Invisible Man would become part of that greater cinematic universe heralded by The Mummy Returns launched in 2017 to critical and box office derision. As that monstrosity crashed and burned (as it should have done) the idea of an interconnected monster universe was abandoned and the stable of monsters sat in a holding pattern while those in charge decided what to do with the rights.
Choosing to leave the ‘universe’ idea behind and instead entrust each character in individual stories brought to life by creative directors that had a unique vision was a great idea.
First cab off the new rank is The Invisible Man brought to you by visionary actor/writer/director/producer Leigh Whannell who previously brought us Insidious 3 and the wildly entertaining Upgrade.
Starring Elizabeth Moss as domestic violence survivor Cecelia, this tells the story of how she is stalked and tormented after her violent and controlling partner Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has supposedly committed suicide and left her life.
Of course being called the invisible man we go in with certain expectations and beliefs as of course we never believe that he’s actually dead.
This bad situation just worsens as time goes on and Cecelia finds herself fighting an unseen enemy. As its impact widens to endanger the lives of those around her including her sister Emily played by Harriet Dyer, friend James played by the excellent Aldis Hodge and his daughter Sydney (likeable Storm Reid), we are invested in this situation to an even greater extent.
Whilst Cecelia begs and cries at people to believe her and finds her own sanity being doubted not just by those around her but by herself, we can’t help but wonder what the endgame is here.
And when it is finally revealed, it is certainly an evil gendered trap; with a wickedly satisfying finale.
Director Whannell does a fantastic job here, I particularly liked how his camera would focus on blank spaces with the expectation that the audience would fill those spaces with their own knowledge of what we are supposedly ‘seeing’. His use of dark and light shadows sound and negative space were all very clever.
The script itself makes sense within its own universe, though one particular plot point was glossed over in a way that bothered me throughout the film’s entirety. I understand that I can figure that out the details but I do wish there had been an acknowledgement of that hole.
Elizabeth Moss was of course always authentic and brought her A game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her give a performance that was less than fully committed and she does not disappoint here either.
The themes that it touches on are important and relevant. We are more alert than ever to domestic violence and abusive situations within relationships; how the worst abuse doesn’t always leave bruises, at least not visible ones. I like too that when she was downtrodden and in a bad situation in her life she was dressed and presented appropriately, nothing was glamorised, she was never sexualised, and she was treated with the respect that her character deserved. As a woman I find that nothing short of refreshing, and it’s sad that it’s something that needs to be pointed out as it is something that should have always been.
Cecelia was also strong and kick ass in a way that showed her resilience and natural tenacity rather than making her a superhero. Being a victim doesn’t strip her of all her power, and that’s something important to reiterate.
The relationships felt natural and believable, and I particularly enjoyed the easy interactions presented here.
Some people have expressed disappointment with the finale but I for one found it perfection and Mosses acting in particular, Sublime.
Though it could perhaps have benefited from tighter editing and a shorter run time there wasn’t anything that felt superfluous, it doesn’t outstay its welcome but also doesn’t rush the story – a tale well told.
This is one to admire and enjoy, no false jump scares, nothing unearned.
Well worth ‘seeing’.