Monday, 2 March 2020

Review: The Invisible Man (2020)

The Invisible Man
Cert: 15 / 124 mins / Dir. Leigh Whannell / Trailer

Written and directed by Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man is a contemporary reimagining of the H.G. Wells novel; the tale of crazed inventor Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who perfects a means of vanishing - this time told from the perspective of his domestically abused partner, Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss). As befits its setting, the movie is more psych-thriller than outright Horror™, but Whannell has enough cinematic grounding to confidently play notes from both.

This new version of Griffin resides and works in an East-coast cliffside mansion, complete with built-in laboratory, very much a dark-side image of Tony Stark. The Invisible Man doesn't play on this element too much, but it would have been another interesting route to take. Like every portrayal of the character, stillness is truly how Griffin disguises himself, so the film is by necessity a bit quiet-quiet-BANG, but even that doesn't become as self-indulgent as other Blumhouse offerings.


Because although Universal managed to keep hold of the classic property for distribution purposes, this is very much A Blumhouse Joint™ and was arguably always going to be. Luckily for us, it's one of the bloody good ones. By the time the effects-shots kick in properly (after an admirable period of restraint), the film becomes more interesting on a technical level than a narrative one, but the sense of tension at reaching a clear-cut finish line remains suitably high.

Suspension-of-disbelief is the main hurdle to clear with this sort of thing, of course. Even within the confines of a darkened auditorium, certain levels of internal logic have to be maintained. And while there is ostensibly a supernatural element to the central plot device, the antagonists's motives and flaws are very, very human.


Will you buy that this particular method of invisibility could work as well as it's shown? Not necessarily*1. But will you buy Elisabeth Moss' performance in believing that Cecilia believes? 100%. As much as Whannell deserves all the plaudits he'll receive for this telling of the story, full credit goes to Moss; an actress who can create a sense of palpable dread using only an empty room. Okay, Stefan Duscio's claustrophobic cinematography and a brooding minimalist score from Benjamin Wallfisch also have their part to play, but this film would be nothing without its lead performer.

There's the feeling that perhaps Cecilia begins to suspect the incredible truth far more quickly than someone doubting their sanity actually should, but Moss does the spiral of 'crazy' perfectly, and the supporting cast of Aldis Hodge, Harriet Dyer and Michael Dorman do well to minimise the sense of staginess (Storm Reid seems to be in this by virtue of her screaming-ability - an absolute waste of talent, but hey).

Considering the almighty mess Universal could well have made of this under their own steam (a studio where even the mighty Dracula's not safe), The Invisible Man is an incredibly solid retooling of a fable almost older than cinema itself...

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Us, Brightburn.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
It is.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
The film will lose emotional punch on repeated viewings, but yes.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Everyone is on fine form, here.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's possible.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Elisabeth Moss was in Us with Lupita 'Kanata' Nyong'o.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 No spoilers in this review, but this particular aspect is intended as a metaphor. It's just a metaphor which isn't really expanded upon to its full potential. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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