The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man ★★★½

YouTube Review

The concept of The Invisible Man is such an intriguing one that it’s easy to see why there have been so many bites at the cherry. While I haven’t seen every previous incarnation, I feel quite safe in saying that Leigh Whannell’s version is almost certainly going to be the best.

The film doesn’t mess about with character development or set up, at least not in the traditional way of having characters go about their day-to-day lives while spouting expositional dialogue so you know their backstory and who they are as a character. It jumps right into it with a tense escape sequence that perfectly encapsulates the film you are about to watch. From then on there is barely any let up, as there wouldn’t be if you were constantly on the look out for a completely invisible stalker. The film gratefully also ends in the same way, finishing on a climactic moment and not providing a generic aftermath scene. It’s late in and early out, and that’s good.

So much of this film relies on the performance of Elisabeth Moss, who thrives under the pressure of such a challenge. The antagonist being invisible, there are a lot of scenes of her being tormented and acting hysterical opposite no other actor, which could potentially be the film’s downfall (and which also takes a high degree of difficulty). She fully commits to the character and the extreme situations she finds herself in and this makes for a very engaging performance and even makes ridiculous - even impossible - situations believable. Her character is also surprisingly competent for the victim in a horror movie. Unfortunately this is a horror movie released in February which means come awards season all the voters will have forgotten about her.

The sound design and camerawork are almost characters in the movie too, making an otherwise safe scene feel creepy and off. In situations where the protagonist is trying to escape quietly, the Dolby Atmos sound design amplifies every little noise, making us fear for her and also making us jump. The way the camera shifts focus as though looking at someone else, despite there apparently being nobody there, really helps creep you out and put you in the same headspace as the protagonist, leaving you to wonder, ‘Is someone there or am I just being paranoid?’.

The use of wide open spaces is something I appreciated too, as it helps highlight the notion that this guy could be anywhere. The production design of the main house is very open plan and involves lots of doors, empty seats, and dark corners. You know he’s in there somewhere, but you don’t know where, and that’s a great tension-builder. 

A common motif in this movie is that of water, and while it’s open to interpretation and everyone should draw their own conclusions as to what that’s trying to connote, to me it signified the movie as a whole: sometimes calm, often dangerous. I think there’s also something there about the idea of washing away the past and trying for a fresh start. Of course water is also transparent just as our villain is.

The film also doubles as a metaphor for wanting to get out of toxic relationships and gaslighting situations, and how hard that can be when nobody is willing to believe you and when someone else holds so much power. That said I think something that was left unexplored is the notion that it’s not always easy to leave abusive partners when you still love them. I would have liked to have seen this and the various complexities involved explored in more detail. 

The film isn’t without its flaws and does present logical inconsistencies, and sometimes makes you suspend your disbelief (surprisingly, not because of its central premise, but rather the execution of particular events). I can’t get into specifics without straying into spoiler territory, but the in-world science can be capricious.

I also would’ve liked some sort of characterisation for the villain, as there’s essentially none. His character is one-dimensional and about as deep as ‘abusive smart guy who is dangerously in love’. Some more fleshing out would’ve gone a long way here I think (later on at least as early on the less we know about him the more mysterious and therefore threatening he is).

One thing I would’ve also liked to have seen is the idea that the Invisible Man maybe doesn’t even exist, rather than just knowing that he definitely does. I think having some doubt in our protagonist’s sanity and not knowing whether there really is an invisible man or not - at least until maybe the midpoint - would’ve added some ambiguity and made you think more, putting you in the protagonist’s shoes.

Overall this is a really effective thriller. It has some earned and well-executed jump scares, and plenty of creepy moments where you literally want to hold your breath. Maybe the odd situation doesn’t quite add up and some more characterisation would’ve added some depth to the film, but definitely seek this one out.


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