Writer and Director Leigh Whannell
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Oliver Jackson-Cohen
The Invisible Man is not a work of genius, by any means. It is the kind of film where one can just feel hard work and perspiration in trying to make something more than one would expect to see in the standard PG-13 scary movie. It does indeed rise above standard. The acting, writing and direction starts slowly, but in the final two acts builds to a crescendo that is predictable at times, surprising at others and, overall, very satisfying.
Elisabeth Moss is great as Cecilia Kass, who just left her husband, Adrian Griffin (Jackson-Cohen). The reason she left: he’s controlling and manipulative. That he allowed her to keep her last name doesn’t quite jibe with this concept, but we’ll go with it for purposes of momentum. The leaving process is pained and intense. Pained because she seems to make every possible noise on her way out while trying to be quiet as a mouse. Intense, because when it’s quiet, it’s really damn quiet. The house is filmed in a creepy way. The camera moves into blank areas with no real movement to be seen. What are we waiting for? They could have dumped the James Fenimore Cooper-esque noises and just went with the silence and it would have approached perfection.
Once she escapes we get to see her in hiding at a childhood friend’s house. This friend is Detective James Lanier (Hodge). He lives with his daughter, Sydney (Reid) and they are patiently waiting for Cecilia to come out from her shell. Moss plays Cecilia somewhere between Julianne Moore’s severity (in really any role) migrating somewhere towards Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. That range of hysteria might be tough for a lesser skilled actor to pull off. If nothing else, this film shows what an exceptional Actress can do with material that would seem average at first.
A few weeks later, Cecilia gets a notice in the mail that her husband took his own life. For a fleeting moment, she is free. She eve makes it to the mailbox. Next thing you know, she’s in Adrian’s lawyer brother Tom’s office hearing the terms of the will. She barely has time to thank those instrumental in helping her, when things start going awry.
Initially, she thinks maybe it’s her. Soon enough she realizes something her husband told her is coming true. She would never be able to leave him, even after he is seemingly gone. From here, it’s expected that there will be standard scares and events designed to make it look like Cecilia has lost her sanity. This does happen, but the way it happens contains more than a few shocking moments that were not ruined by the trailer.
The last act is jam packed and it is invigorating. From the time Cecilia meets with her sister for dinner through the last moment of the film, there are several points that quite boldly move forward when most scripts would choose to recede. Moss is more than up for the task here, and more importantly, she is willing to do anything to bring the viewer along as she drives through the plot. Through the last half of the film, Cecilia goes all out and never stops thinking.
The Invisible Man is a must for those interested in a thriller that never slows down. Whannell is still learning how to utilize all senses in this audio-visual medium. This is definitely an improvement over Upgrade. There is no reason to think he couldn’t continue on in this Universal Dark Universe, giving it an energy and intelligence that The Mummy and Wolfman lacked.
Whether or not they choose to build on this film, there is an opportunity here. This film feels like an Iron Man type achievement. No one was expecting a movie like this would actually be as good as it turned out.
(**** out of *****)