THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Benedict Hardie, Amali Golden, Sam Smith, Zara Michaels, Anthony Brandon Wong, Myles Rice, Nash Edgerton, Dennis Kreusler, Michael Knott, Randolph Fields, Serag Mohamed and Bianca Pomponio.
Screenplay by Leigh Whannell.
Directed by Leigh Whannell.
Distributed by Universal Pictures. 110 minutes. Rated R.
Once in a while as a film reviewer – hell, as a film-goer in general – you go into a movie not expecting all that much and are totally blown away by the movie.
Take The Invisible Man. It is yet another version of the old HG Wells novel, which was already made into a classic film 87 years ago with Claude Rains (and has been remade several times.)
Now, it is being updated for the new millennium and was originally conceived to be part of Universal’s aborted classic monsters universe series with Johnny Depp in the lead. That series pretty much died on the first take – Tom Cruise’s awful reboot of The Mummy – however this script was already written and Universal decided to do it as a stand-alone film.
The new version of The Invisible Man is helmed by Leigh Whannell, the somewhat cheesy horror maestro behind the Saw and Insidious series. (Whannell even played one of the two lead roles in the first Saw movie and had a supporting role as an actor in Insidious.)
So, I went in figuring it would be a decent genre film, probably a bit too violent for the source material and playing fast and loose with the original structure.
It is all those things, but I had no idea how creepy and well-made it would be. This is a huge step up for Whannell as a filmmaker. Also, not hiring Depp or some other Hollywood star – the biggest name in the new Invisible Man cast is Elisabeth Moss, who is a well-respected actress, but hardly A-list – the story is not distracted by star power and just weaves its devious web.
Also, smartly, Whannell decided to bring this intrepid chiller tale up to the current #MeToo generation.
Moss plays an abused woman who escapes the compound of her tech genius boyfriend, only to come to suspect that he has figured out a way to become invisible, allowing him to stalk her without her really knowing and to make the people around her believe she is going mad. Picture Sleeping with the Enemy with an ex that the heroine – and the people around her – cannot see.
They don’t go deep into the science behind the invisibility – and honestly I’m not sure I buy that it would work – but if you are willing to suspend disbelief on this and a few other shaky plot points, you are in for quite a ride.
Moss excels in a rare lead role for her, commanding the screen in many scenes in which she seems to be alone – even some in which she is fighting for her life with an invisible foe, which could look ridiculous, but somehow never does.
The story is smart and nuanced, the acting is across the board terrific and the scares are subtle and chilling. Towards the end it gets a little overly violent for its own good, but even that mostly works in the context of the story.
If this is what the Universal Classic Horror Universe was going to look like, perhaps they should give it another shot after all.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2020 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 28, 2020.