The Invisible Man (2020) Review

The Invisible Man 2020 Review

A very 21st Century adaptation of H G Wells’ classic “The Invisible Man”, Leigh Whannel takes almost as many liberties with the source material as he does with logic in order to deliver a tense and oppressive thriller, a desire in which he largely succeeds.

Having escaped from her wealthy and abusive boyfriend, optical technology mogul Adrian Griffin, Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) is just starting to piece her life together when she receives news that her ex has taken his own life and left his entire fortune to her. While her friends suggest she is just being paranoid, a series of increasingly disturbing events convince her that she is being stalked by someone nobody can see.

At the heart of the film’s success is an incredibly compelling performance from Elizabeth Moss as the psychologically abused victim of a controlling partner attempting recovery while being plgued by fears both real and imagined. It’s through her that the film gains its power to have you on the edge of your seat.

Possibly the most effective sequence is the one which opens the film, as Cecilia makes her nighttime escape for her boyfriend’s palatial, high-tech mansion. It’s a masterclass of tension and sound design which unfortunately sets up some stumbling blocks for the film later. Although the campaign of harassment and intimidation is nicely played as a haunting, or a poltergeist-like torment, the fact that the main character was at pains to move so quietly in the film’s opening raises questions about how eponymous character manages to move so silently around a normal house.

He’s the Invisible Man, for sure, but it’s never addressed how he manages to be the Inaudible Man during sequences where he’s essentially living in the attic of the house where Cecilia is staying. There’s not a creak or a groan of a floorboard or joist, which seems curious given how much the film emphasises sound in its opening. He’s also apparently able to come within mere inches of a person without being detected which suggests he’s also, somehow, the Inolfactory Man.

In the novel, and in previous interpretations, it’s the power of invisibility which corrupts the noble scientist, twisting him into villain or monster and this is the first to bestow the power of invisibility on someone who was already a sociopathic douchebag. It’s also the first time the power has been the result of technological augmentation rather than chemical or physical alteration. The eventual reveal of the invisibility MacGuffin only raises further questions around the sound problem and will likely alarm those who suffer from trypophobia.

Walking a smart allegorical line of the ‘believe women’ advocacy of the Me Too movement, the film starts to lose its footing in a third act which strains its credibility beyond the breaking point. With the ubiquity of cameras and surveillance, Griffin’s increasingly brazen behaviour inexplicably goes unnoticed to the point where it undermines the film’s carefully built-up atmosphere.

Despite these lapses, it’s still a chilling psychological thriller with an astonishing central performance from Moss and a great spin on a veteran story.

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7/10

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