THE INVISIBLE MAN (Directed by Leigh Whannell, 124 minutes, USA, 2020)
BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC The latest cinematic take on the H. G. Wells classic The Invisible Man, which hits theaters today, veers away from the source text to tell a much bleaker story, that is as much about domestic violence as it is its titular metaphorical monster. Set in modern day San Francisco, the film opens with Cecilia (
Elisabeth Moss) fleeing her abusive husband, who made his fortune in the field of optics. When he dies two weeks later due an apparent suicide, Cecilia inherits $5 million and the unshakeable feeling that someone is following. Thrust into a downward spiral of paranoia, Cecilia is stripped of everything she holds dear by a mysterious force she believes is her dead husband, who even in death seems bent on controlling her.
This is the third film written and directed by Leigh Whannell, who cut his teeth writing for James Wan on the Saw/Insidious franchises. The Invisible Man is his most mature effort to date and will no doubt resurrect the Universal Monster franchise, currently mouldering six feet under thanks to Tom Cruise’s disastrous Mummy reboot. Whannell’s script is brought to life by Elisabeth Moss who turns in an excruciatingly raw performance that pushes the actress, known for her meltdown roles, to her absolute limits.
By drilling down on Cecilia’s toxic relationship with her ex (
Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and her resulting PTSD-like behavior, The Invisible Man uses science fiction to tell a very human story. Cecilia’s desperate attempts to convince those around her that she’s not crazy, that this ‘Invisible Man’ terrorizing her is all to real, lends as distinctly #metoo subtext to the narrative. Conversely, Whannell imbues the science the film is predicated on with something that feels surprisingly real and organic, not to mention menacing as hell. The Invisible Man is as stylish and smart, as it is terrifying and emotionally charged, which is no easy task with a book over 120 years old.