By Ambar Chatterjee
Release Date: 28/02/2020
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid
“The Invisible Man shows promise and finesse but doesn’t deliver”
H.G Well’s Invisible Man was the story of a scientist who was plagued by his own invention and gradually spiraled into madness as he couldn’t take back what he had done to himself. This, for me, was a potent plot point that not only served the story well but also helped all its future adaptations including the Hollow Man films. In Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, we are introduced to a scientist who has created something that lets him become invisible but doesn’t incorporate any change in him physically. This takes away a key plot point and source of drama from the character but at the same time gives the director other things to play with. The success or failure of the film depended on whatWhannell did with the new-found dramatic angles or the lack of it and what he chose to do with them.
The film begins with Cecilia Kass(Elisabeth Moss) escaping from the palatial abode of his boyfriend/husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). As she tiptoes her way through the highly organized and futuristic home, we are given a few sneak peaks into the fact that Adrian must have been an abusive boyfriend/husband. We understand that Cecilia is extremely scared of Adrian and she has also been on contraceptives to avoid pregnancy. She walks by something that feels like a hold for some suit but is empty or so it seems. By the time she gallops over a wall and makes her way to her pickup we see Adrian run after her and punch a hole in the window of the pickup car with his barehands. This gives us an idea of the man’s physical prowess.
Weeks later, Cecilia is hiding off with a cop, James Lanier (Aldus Hodge) and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). She is afraid to even step out of the house and her fear feels very real. Even though we have seen nothing of how Adrian was with her, her expressions totally sell the story that he must have been a nightmare to live with. However, things soon look bright. Cecilia’s sister brings news of Adrian’ssuicide --- probably out of frustration and longing for Cecilia ---leaving a substantial amount of money for her. Cecilia finally walks out of the house and claims her fortune. That night, out of the same fortune, she opens a new bank account for Sydney and starts paying for her Fashion Designing course. They celebrate and things look good for her for the first time but the very next day, we get our first peek into what is going to be Cecilia’s future.
Elizabeth Moss as the abused wife/girlfriend is exceptional. She totally feels like someone who has been tormented for God knows how long and it shows both in her mannerisms and the fact that she gets spooked very easily. Even after she has learned that Adrian is dead, it only takes an incident or two to convince her that he is not dead and has in-factfound a way to become invisible and make her life miserable. The problem is, she is unable to convince anyone else of this notion. Her adversary is foxy. He not only toys with her mind but also knows exactly how and where to gas her making the others believe that she is going insane. It is made clear that he wants to torment her, and he doesso very well. All of this works well in the film because of Elizabeth Moss’s rendering of the character that makes it allsoreal. Here is a film that pans on the character of Cecilia once and then pans back and freezes on an empty doorway, but we are led to believe that there is someone standing there looking down at Cecilia. That happens because we share her fear of the man in question and how well directed the thrills are. There were moments when I thought that If I had a similar power and I wanted to torment a woman I would do exactly what was shown here.
There are scenes here that really crawlunder your skin. Almost all the scares worked for me. The very first scene that shows us how Cecilia escapes was probably the most thrilling portion of the whole film. There were however some that would make many shrug at the believability of the sequence but it worked well enough for me. This is the kind of film where you must suspend your disbeliefs to a certain extent to immerse yourself in the narrative. The sound design of the film was exquisite. There were large portions in which there were practically no sounds and I was just trying to hear the Invisible Man breathe. It isn’t easy to be subtle in these situations, but the makers did a fantastic job with being just that. Subtle.
My issues with the film were mostly about the plot and how the story and the characters developed. Adrian leaves a huge fortune for Cecilia when he declares himself dead and that to me made no sense at all. What he does to her didn’t need him to leave any fortune for her. There are many sequences where he commits a crime and frames Cecilia for it. If one looks closely these sequences would not hold much credibility, simply because there are cameras almost everywhere that we go these days and most of it must have got captured. Had the film ignored the presence of cameras maybe it would have worked but that is also not the case. Hence these sequences felt somewhat odd.Since we are never given any insight into how Adrian was or what he did to Cecilia, we are forced to draw a picture of the man from how Cecilia referred to him. This may not go down too well for some who like a more upfront identifier of character traits to relate to them. Some of the turn of events towards the end of the film felt just too much to fathom.
If I look at this film as individual sequences, I really enjoyedthem as these sequences are well done and instill fear that is in keeping with what we might experience if our lives were invaded by an invisible entity. But when I look at it as one coherent story, it is then that it starts falling apart and I see just too many gaping holes in the plot and conducive liberties taken to further the plot and culminate it in the most lethargic and unremarkable manner possible.Top marks to Elisabeth Moss for an exceptionally well rendered part but there is only as much as she can do to aid a flawed script. I loved Leigh Whannell’s previous film Upgradewhich was in many ways a lot crazier than what we have here. But he wrote Upgrade well enough and kept the proceedings believable enough for us to take it for what it was. Unfortunately, that is not the case with The Invisible Man.
Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)