Film review: ‘THE INVISIBLE MAN’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

In his tense, creepy, if at times predictable interpretation of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man, Aussie writer/ director Leigh Whannell has turned the story into family violence nightmare that echoes films like Sleeping With The Enemy and Gaslight.

Elizabeth Moss plays Cecilia, the victim of controlling and manipulative husband, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who keeps her a virtual prisoner jn his sprawling but ominous-looking modernist seaside mansion. When she escapes to the home of cop friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his teen daughter (Storm Reid) she thinks she’s safe but a series of strange happenings seemingly committed by an unseen presence lead her to believe that optics expert Adrian has developed the power of invisibility and is stalking her. As the disturbing, poltergeist-like intrusions become more violent, people begin to blame Cecilia and to question her sanity.

With this film, Leigh Whannel has concocted a clever and poignant twist on the invisible man concept. Here he alludes to the often-invisible menace of male violence toward their partners and the insidious psychological impact this has.

Through grim, atmospheric lighting and unnerving direction, Whannel often infuses the film with nail-chomping tension. He plugs into a primal paranoia by filling apparently empty space around Cecilia with constant threat. Particularly sinister are the early sequences where the invisible menace engages in subtle mind games to not only scare Cecilia but to destroy her credibility with her family and friends. A powerful score from Benjamin Wallfisch that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Hitchcock thriller makes the film even more unsettling.

Because the villain is mostly unseen, much of the film relies on Elizabeth Moss’s reactions and physical acting. She’s typically excellent making Cecilia convincing as a victim and someone pushed to the brink of insanity. In those rare moments when he’s actually witnessed in the film, Oliver Jackson-Cohen still exudes a palpable sense of menace but important to both the film’s plot and it’s family violence subtext, isn’t depicted as a one-dimensional monster. Michael Dorman is also effective as Adrian’s sweaty suspicious lawyer brother.

Unfortunately, the film begins to run out of puff toward the end. After establishing its sinister premise, it heads into midday movie territory although it still has a few twists to keep us guessing after the credits have rolled.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2

Genre: Horror/ sci-fi/ drama.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): Leigh Whannel.

Release date: 27th Feb 2020.

Running time: 124 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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