Chilling and thrilling with ‘The Invisible Man’

Director Leigh Whannell revitalizes the antiquated H.G. Wells tale for the 21st century


The new "The Invisible Man," directed by Leigh Whannell, reworks its film predecessors as well as the classic H.G. Wells novel. 

Courtesy Universal Pictures

Director Leigh Whannell creates an utterly thrilling and unnerving film with his new rendition of “The Invisible Man.” Inspired by the 1897 novel of the same name from acclaimed sci-fi author H.G. Wells, “The Invisible Man” film delivers a slow burn — a psychological thriller which builds tension and unease until the film explodes in its third act.

“The Invisible Man” tells the story of Cecelia Kass, played by Elizabeth Moss, who recently escaped from her sociopathic, abusive boyfriend Adrian Griffin, portrayed by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Several weeks after her escape from Adrian, Cecelia learns that Adrian has committed suicide. Relieved of her fear of Adrian, Cecilia attempts to rebuild her life, but strange occurrences continue to follow her wherever she goes. Cecilia soon comes to believe that Adrian has turned himself invisible so that he can torment her for deserting him, and she must find a way to prove this before her life is completely ruined. 

Moss offers a masterful portrayal of Cecilia in the film. She provides a raw, unsettling performance as she processes Cecilia’s trauma. The film is practically a one-woman show starring Moss as she expertly navigates the trauma-induced paranoia in the shoes of Cecilia. Besides Moss, the supporting cast also provides enjoyable performances. Despite the lack of any major character arcs, each supporting cast member fills their role with life and makes the best of what they are given. The supporting cast suffers so that Moss can shine, but this is for the best, as Moss fills the movie with a terrifying sense of realism.

One of the strongest aspects of “The Invisible Man” is its exploration of the fear of being watched. While the idea may seem trite, rarely — if ever — has being watched ever seemed so terrifying. Whennell and cinematographer Stefan Duscio use every frame in “The Invisible Man” to create a sense of discomfort. One of the most interesting examples of this comes relatively early in the film, in a scene where Cecilia is looking at some clothes as she decides what to wear for a job interview the next day. 

Initially, the camera focuses on Cecilia. However, after lingering on her for probably 30 seconds, the camera pans to focus on an empty space in the room located behind her. Upon revisiting this scene, the implications of the camera movement make themselves clear — the titular invisible man is in the room. This horrifying theme presents itself from beginning to end as it works into the heads of the audience as a truly scary thought and potentially a new paranoia.

Where “The Invisible Man” falls short is in its themes of victimhood. The promotion of the film implied an exploration of the life of the victim in the #MeToo era, which sounded challenging, creative and almost new. Unfortunately, the film fails to fully delve into themes such as abuse and trauma in favor of a surface-level exploration of these themes where the victim, in this case Moss’s Cecilia, faces doubt from all angles only to have to attempt to prove that she is not making up her claims. 

Throughout the film, Cecilia claims that Adrian is alive and has figured out a way to turn himself invisible to torment her. However, she continually encounters immense disbelief to the point where most people in her life write her off as insane instead of attempting to help her, even if they were to attribute her claims to her past traumatic experiences. While not surprising that the themes of victimhood were not delved into due to their controversial nature, it is truly a shame that “The Invisible Man” made the safe choice of refusing to make a statement through an exploration of these themes.

Overall, “The Invisible Man” offers an entertaining experience for moviegoers. Despite its flaws, the film combines smart storytelling, constant tension and masterful acting to form the first great thriller of the year. Definitely make sure to see “The Invisible Man.”  

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