Wednesday 27 January 2021

Movie Review: The Invisible Man (2020)

A suspense drama with some horror elements, The Invisible Man modernizes the H.G. Wells classic story into one woman's intense struggle against spousal abuse.

In the middle of the night, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) escapes from the luxury house of her controlling husband Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a successful optics genius and entrepreneur. Her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) helps her settle down at the home of their friend James (Aldis Hodge), a police officer, and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid).

Cecilia is sure Adrian will come after her, but then learns he has committed suicide. His brother Tom (Michael Dorman), a lawyer, further reveals Adrian left her an inheritance of $100,000 a month for five years. But Cecilia soon starts sensing a nearby presence and becomes convinced Adrian is still alive and has found a way to become invisible to continue victimizing her. Facing a threat she cannot see, Cecilia finds herself isolated and labelled psychologically unstable.

A smooth combination of woman-under-threat suspense and all-out-horror with no shortage of spilt blood, The Invisible Man is a brisk adaptation of a vintage story. Writer and director Leigh Whannell wastes no time surrounding Cecilia with peril, and briskly hustles the action along as the science fiction of invisibility becomes an all-too-real weapon aimed at her sanity.

The literal and metaphorical long reach of abusive behaviour, snaking past the supposed safety of a police officer's presence and a hard-as-nails protective sister, is the real terror confronting Cecilia. And it's a lonely battle to fight, the abuser acting surreptitiously, leading his victim into gaslighting territory where her every statement casts more doubt about her mental state.

It's difficult to sustain a credible illusion of active invisibility, and plot holes do creep in, as do repetitive shots of empty room corners suggesting a menacing invisible presence. But Whannell skips past the weaker moments by mixing up the tone, a few jump scares punctuating quieter moments of psychological build-up. And when it's time for the games to stop and mayhem to take over, the action is uncompromising.

Elisabeth Moss creates a captivating and initially vulnerable victim, but also rises to the challenge of fighting back once Cecilia understands no one else will fight her battle. Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid and Harriet Dyer provide rugged support, and Michael Dorman is suitably oily as the antagonist Adrian. In the hands of devious offenders intent on exerting unearned control, impalpable threats can be most virulent.

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