The Invisible Man

****1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Invisible Man 2020
"Cinematographer Stefan Duscio's camerawork is crafty, often focusing on empty frames and spaces where Adrian might be hiding, so that every scene becomes instantly tense." | Photo: Universal

Forget Claude Rains in bandages, HG Wells' tale of an invisible criminal gets a tense modern makeover in this adaptation by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious), which sees the mad doctor reimagined as a domestic abuser.

The tension is there right from the start - along with an enjoyable watery credits sequence - as Elisabeth Moss's Cecilia Kass drugs her controlling fiance Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and makes a very quiet run for it from the optical engineer's fortress-like home. The decision not to show any overt violence towards Cecilia but to let Moss exhibit a long gestating fear instead is a mark of Whannell's trust in the imagination of the film's audience, which endures throughout. For most of the running time of the film, Adrian himself isn't present with us, instead, left to make him visible in our mind's eye. We are often left to watch Moss thinking as well, which is important because she talks a lot about the way that her abusive ex did that too. We are in her head every bit as much as Adrian is.

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Escaping with her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer), Cecilia takes refuge with Emily's friend James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid)- an attempt at picking the post up from the end of the drive saying more about her state of mind than any shot of Adrian hitting her ever could. And when Emily tells her that Adrian has committed suicide, she finds it hard to believe. Soon enough, so do we.

Unlike many films that urge audiences to question a woman in peril's sanity - leaving the door open to events being imagined - Whannell invites us to trust and believe Cecilia from the get-go. Adrian is essentially gaslighting her friends and family into believing she's going crazy but we are rooting for her completely - something that might give people pause for reflection on coercive abuse once the film is ended. The fact that Cecilia is aware of his manipulations also makes her a much stronger heroine - she may be terrified but she isn't stupid. Her first violent encounter with her invisible assailant also establishes how the optical trick of invisibility is achieved and, from that point forward, Whannell uses every spare inch of empty frame to make us think about the threat.

Cinematographer Stefan Duscio's camerawork is crafty, often focusing on empty frames and spaces where Adrian might be hiding, so that every scene becomes instantly tense. In a police station, a bit of sticky tape on the wall draws the eye, but its what we imagine might be in front of it that makes us hold our breath. This is Moss' movie and she does a great job of conveying long-held fear but also the resilience and anger of Cecilia. The film escalates enjoyably , bringing with it violence eventually as this is, after all, a genre film, while keeping some surprises in store - not bad for a tale that was originally written in 1897. Props, too, to the casting department for choosing an actor for Cecilia's fiance who is younger than she is - you don't see that very often on film.

Reviewed on: 06 Mar 2020
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When a woman who has escaped from an abusive relationship is told her ex-committed suicide, she finds it hard to believe.
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Director: Leigh Whannell

Writer: Leigh Whannell, Leigh Whannell, HG Wells

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman, Benedict Hardie, Renee Lim, Brian Meegan, Nick Kici, Vivienne Greer, Nicholas Hope, Cleave Williams, Cardwell Lynch, Sam Smith

Year: 2020

Runtime: 124 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Australia, US, Canada, UK

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