Movie review: The Invisible Man

March 06, 2020
The Invisible Man - Official Trailer

‘THE Invisible Man’ is originally a novel written by HG Wells in 1897 that was filmed in 1933 starring Claude Rains. The new movie is totally different from the novel, the movie and its other versions on TV. In the opening scene, we see Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss of “The Handmaid’s Tale”) trying to escape from the lavish San Francisco home, with a beautiful view of the ocean, of her lover, Adrian (Oliver Jackson Cohen from “The Haunting of Hill House”) who she has drugged to sleep.

She dodges many security cameras and is on her way out but she forgets her dog, who eventually causes the alarm to go on and wakes up Adrian who then chases her and tries to stop her as she gets into the getaway car of her sister (Harriet Dyer). We learn later from Cecilia that she left her toxic relationship with Adrian as he is very controlling and abusive. She temporarily lives with a cop friend, James (Aldis Hodge) and his teen daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid).

We’re told Adrian is already dead after committing suicide and she can now start life anew. She’s an architect and applies for a new job, only to find out that someone stole her portfolio of architectural plans from her attache case. Slowly, she realizes that Adrian, a scientist who is an expert in optics and digital imaging technology, so brilliant he can rival Tony Starke, is not really dead. He has just faked his own death and has become an invisible man who is now stalking her. Of course, no one would believe her and they think she’s just getting paranoiac and losing her mind, until things get worse and worst.

The movie, as written and directed by Leigh Whanell (who wrote the scripts of horror flicks “Saw” and “Insidious”, but what we really like is his direction of the neat thriller, “Upgrade”, which we saw in Australia), starts very strongly, with the tense opening sequence beautifully blocked and staged. That sequence alone is surely worth seeing. But as the movie goes along, we get so detached as the overall level of sanity and coherence plunges. There’s too much reliance on conventional spook-horror-thriller tropes to make this a sure crowd pleaser since the producer is the horror factory, Blumhouse.

It has cleverly sinister cinematography and its fantastic musical score rivals that of Bernard Hermann, but this totally reimagined and modernized version is so far fetched from what HG Wells originally had in mind. “The Invisible Man” here is more akin to “Hollow Man” where Kevin Bacon goes on a killing spree after he became invisible. This movie is actually a cross between “Hollow Man” and Julia Roberts’ “Sleeping with the Enemy” and J Lo’s “Enough” about abused women who fight back.

Some scenes do work, like the ruthless murder of someone who’s neck is slashed inside a restaurant full of people, staged for maximum shock value. This later becomes the peg for the slasher finale when Cecilia gives the murderer the comeuppance he so rightfully deserves, but it’s too contrivedly staged and, ultimately, it’s up to the viewers if they’d want to buy it as a neat and satisfying way of concluding the movie.

If you’re not a thinking viewer, you’d certainly be easily impressed by it, specially with such seemingly clever twist, like one involving Adrian’s brother, Tom (Michael Dorman), a lawyer who tries to convince Cecilia that Adrian is really dead and his ashes are in an urn inside his office.

The onus of carrying the film is put exclusively on Elisabeth Moss in a performance that will remind you of Ingrid Bergman’s Oscar-winning performance in “Gaslight”, where her husband Charles Boyer manipulates her into thinking she’s going insane. In fairness to Moss, she handles all the difficult scenes where she gets terrorized competently, but she actually did better in that drama, “Her Smell”, where she played an aging singer on the verge of a meltdown.

For the life of me, though, we really don’t know why the dashing and debonaire Oliver Cohen would be head over heels, possessively in love with Moss when she definitely doesn’t look like an iota of Ingrid Bergman in the latter’s heydays. Bergman portrayed another similar role in Hitchcock’s “Notorious” and she’s just so luminous it’s easy to see why any man would want to possess her.

Lastly, we couldn’t help but think why Cecilia didn’t get herself something that would make her see her invisible husband even in the dark: infrared goggles. After she poured paint on the invisible man in one scene, and gets to see him, she should have bought herself those goggles that use thermal imaging for you to be able to see even in the dark.