Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man is a perfect example of how to reimagine an iconic property for a new generation. Benefitting from the cancellation of Universal’s Classic Monsters Universe (think Marvel’s Cinematic Universe but with Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.), the film confidently tells its tale without the burden of setting up other films in the process. Unlike other recent adaptations of beloved monsters, Whannell’s film does not concern itself with the spectacle, but offers a more grounded character driven tale.
Anchored by a richly layered script, this incarnation of H.G. Well’s iconic character builds and sustains tension in a remarkable fashion. No longer willing to endure the abusive relationship she has found herself in, Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) makes the bold decision to flee in the middle of the night aided by her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer). Hiding out at the home of her childhood friend Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), Kass slowly begins to find the confidence to put her life back together. A task that will seemingly get easier when she gets word that her former beau Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has died and left her $5 million in his will.
What should have lifted a weight off Kass’ shoulders, quickly turns into a nightmare more sinister than she could have ever imagined. When several strange occurrences happen, Kass begins to believe that Griffin may not in fact be dead after all. As those close to her start to question her mental state, Kass becomes increasingly convinced that Griffin has found a new way to torment her while hiding in plain sight.
A tense allegory on the nature of control, The Invisible Man is a masterful exploration on the vicious cycle of abuse. Kass, like many people who have endured toxic relationships, is a woman struggling to reclaim the power that Griffin has systematically striped from her. Whannell’s tale shows that the silencing and objectification of women can occur at all levels of society. Kass cannot even make it through a job interview without being hit on by her potential new boss. The uneven power structure that surrounds every aspect of Kass’ life adds a layer of dread to her plight.
This sense of lingering torment is hauntingly conveyed through both subtle camera movements and Elisabeth Moss’ sensational performance. Some of the most taut sequences come in The Invisible Man’s quietest moments. A slow pan across a room evokes far more edge of your seat anxiety than anything in Paul Verhoeven’s visual effects driven film Hollow Man.
Moss brings an extra layer of tension to these moments through the vulnerability she shows throughout. Once again showing why she is one of this generation’s greatest actresses, Moss skillfully wades through the complex wave of emotion flowing in the film. The fear and uncertainty that plagues Kass is conveyed in Moss’s face.
On the Blu-ray bonus feature “Moss Manifested”, Moss and Whannell discuss how the actress tackled the character’s emotional journey. Moss also sheds light on how the fight scene in the kitchen was pulled off. Another insightful feature is “Director’s Journey with Leigh Whannell” which highlights the filmmaking processes utilized by Whannell and crew over the 40-day Australian shoot.
One of the year’s most thrilling films, The Invisible Man is must have for any Blu-ray collection.
Bonus Features: Deleted Scenes, Moss Manifested, Director’s Journey with Leigh Whannell, The Players, Timeless Terror, Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Leigh Whannell