Movie Review: The Invisible Man (2020)

The Invisible Man is a loose adaptation of the H.G. Wells story of the same name. In this modern adaptation, the protagonist is Cecilia who is haunted by her possessive, genius boyfriend, Adrian, who invented a way to turn himself invisible using the technology developed by his company. He is presumed dead by the police, but when strange things begin happening around Cecilia, she has to find someone to believe her about invisibility before it's too late. It stars Elizabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. It is written and directed by Leigh Whannell.


The studios who rushed to create their own film universes in the wake of the massive success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have all failed to find that right kind of alchemy. What's coming out now in the wake of these failures is far more interesting. While originally supposed to star Johnny Depp as the titular man and likely skew more toward the source material, writer-director Leigh Whanell's The Invisible Man is something far better than a bloated effects laden piece of a larger puzzle. It's a statement on believing the victims of abuse.


There is no righteous cause for which to go invisible. Whanell's script latches onto that idea with our protagonist not being the one who goes invisible, but the one terrorized by the invisible. Whanell brings to life that idea that to be invisible is to threaten others. He and cinematographer Stefan Duscio use the camera as a point of view for that terror. We see a voyeuristic approach to the scenes, often looking from a corner, or down a hallway. It's also nerve wracking to watch as Cecilia stares at a chair, or a spot across from her. We don't know as much as she doesn't know if there's anything there until the man wants us to. The great use of camera over effects fits the tension and the motive very well.


The metaphor for society works very well, too. So often people in these domestic abuse situations are dismissed. We see all the time how men can get away with almost anything they can think of to women. Women are dismissed all the time, so to see it in such a heightened situation will hopefully help people to empathize with victims and ignore the small voice inside of their head that makes them think there's an advantage to lying about any abuse.


I wish only that there had been more character development for the people in Cecelia's support group of friends and family. I couldn't tell you what her sister actually does as a job or what happened in their past that would make her believe a hateful e-mail sent from her sister's account is the truth before even asking her about it. I also don't understand the relationship between James and Cecelia. Was he the police officer assigned to her case? Was he a friend from way back? Where was Sydney's birth mother in all this? It bugged me too much even as I enjoyed the interactions with both of those characters.


I enjoyed all of Elizabeth Moss' performance, though. She's been giving incredible performances for years, but in The Invisible Man she runs the gamete. Her best scenes are when she's alone, acting against the supposed presence. She can be raw and powerful in these scenes. I especially love her scene after the big fight with James where she just asks the simplest question, "Why me?" It's a beautiful encapsulation of the situation and one that's acted so believably.


There are a few holes here or there, some genuine surprises, and a couple of scenes that are head scratchers, but all in all I think you should take the time and see The Invisible Man. Leigh Whanell is an excellent up and coming filmmaker and has really intriguing ideas. Empathy often comes from seeing depictions of real life terror in fiction and coming out of this film, the best thing we can do for victims is to listen.

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