WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) -
The Invisible Man was doing swell at the box office when it’s theatrical run was rudely interrupted by COVID-19. But if you missed its truncated run you can now stream at home-for a small rental fee on Amazon Prime and I-Tunes
The day after I saw The Invisible Man at Regal Cinema I overheard a woman in the grocery store checkout behind me proclaim: “My niece took me to lunch for my birthday and then we went to a movie and saw The Invisible Man—Gosh that Elisabeth Moss is a great actress.” I would concur with this wise woman and if another actress where in the plucky, yet unhinged lead of The Invisible Man, it wouldn’t have been nearly as good. But the film is also good, because it is well executed by writer/director Leigh Whannell.
The source material for the film, by H.G. Wells is a 120 years old and it’s interesting to see its many incarnations over the century. Whannell’s take on it, is highly original, completely modern and bears little resemblance to the original material. This is a good thing. Moss plays Cecilia Kass, a woman who has plotted an escape from her abusive boyfriend, Adrian Griffin played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. In the middle of the night she sneaks out of their architecturally stunning beach hillside house and is picked up on a deserted road by her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer). Things must be bad for someone to want to leave these posh digs. Moss conveys all the urgency and fear of an abused partner with no dialogue and not a single scene of the abuse shown on screen. But we get it.
Cecilia takes refuse at a friend’s house, James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) a single father to Sydney (Storm Reid). James is a very muscular cop, which is a good thing, because Cecilia is so traumatized from the abuse she can barely muster enough courage to walk out the mailbox to check the mail. When Cecilia learns that her Adrian has committed suicide James and Emily reassure her that the danger is over, but Adrian was a brilliant oculist and Cecilia never completely lets her guard down. This is a good thing, because just because you cannot see someone doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Whannell wisely uses the unseen in this film to create suspense and psychological fear. This is further enhanced by the theory that once someone is abused and controlled in a relationship the victim always feels the presence of the abuser. Moss excels at internal emotion. Her face is the emotional road map of this film, we experience everything that she feels, and we never doubt it, even when other characters in the film do. This is especially true in the overlong second when her sanity comes into question. The film would not be as successful with another actor.
The film is a bit overlong and it would be more impactful at ten minutes less, but Whannell is a terrific storyteller. He understands what is unseen is often more important than what is seen. He understands the importance of leaving breadcrumbs and a protagonist’s strong point of view. But most importantly he understands the authenticity of Moss’s performance and choices, and lets the actress tell much of the story. Suspenseful, intelligent, and very entertaining The Invisible Man is proof that original filmmaking with a theatrical release is still possible, and doesn’t have to cost a fortune to make-this film reportedly cost less than $10 million dollars.