What Went Right With… The Invisible Man (2020)?

A review of The Invisible Man (2020)

Although it may have formed part of this film’s pitch and it might be one of the main reasons for putting this version into production, the latest iteration of The Invisible Man is not a so-called “Me Too” movie. Unimaginative producers and bandwagonist critics may think any flick featuring a female protagonist and a male antagonist is automatically “political” but surely it’s a sexist concept to see every woman as a representative of their demographic rather than a well-written character or a talented actor? Just because a strong or a downtrodden woman is the focus of a film, it doesn’t necessarily make it an allegory of the times we live in. Films like the recent Black Christmas remake and the upcoming Promising Young Woman are the genuine #MeToo movies, not only because of their focussed storyline but also because the message is at the forefront of each film. So forget what lazy critics are saying about Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, surely there’s a difference between a purposely-made pro-female/anti-male piece of entertainment and something that fits somewhere between coincidence and appropriation of popular culture?

Look online and you’ll see that The Invisible Man is labelled as a #MeToo film by quite a few critics but it doesn’t feel like that to me. Sure, the central character is someone who isn’t believed but that’s a filmic trope dating back over a century. Mainstream critics also talk about this movie being “Hitchcockian” but Leigh Whannell is no Brian De Palma (a genuine student of Alfred Hitchcock’s techniques). Like his previous film Upgrade, the story here is paced well and the plot is intriguing, but Leigh falls short of creating a genuinely tense and enthralling thriller. The Invisible Man is not exactly Gaslight, it’s more accurately Sleeping With The Enemy meets The Entity; a well constructed sci-fi horror thriller that keeps you chomping on your popcorn but if you view it more than once or watch it in any great detail it all starts to fall apart. In a few decades time this movie will not be seen as a classic, firstly because it’s a remake, but more importantly because it contains lots of problems which under any kind of scrutiny become hard to ignore.

The plot of this film is straightforward: victim of domestic abuse Cecilia Kass (played by Elisabeth Moss) escapes from her abuser Adrian Griffin (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Adrian is a scientist-slash-inventor and owner of an optics company and when Cecilia is told that he’s committed suicide, she doesn’t believe it. Cecilia suspects that Adrian has faked his death and is taunting her using his invention of invisibility.

Before I go on, I’ll point out that I haven’t read H.G. Wells’ book on which this film is based but I have watched the 1933 Universal original. This latest version tries to take the film back to its sci-fi horror roots although the 1933 James Whale picture was arguably also comedic in parts. This is a marked improvement on the 2000 Kevin Bacon/Elisabeth Shue trash-fest The Hollow Man but with all the tech on show, this latest movie has more in common with the 2000 disappointment than the 1933 classic.

Let’s start with what’s right… Elisabeth Moss holds the whole thing together, remove her and the film wouldn’t be as watchable. Moss has something of a Jack Nicholson from The Shining about her; her upturned eyebrow and smirk reminding me of any of the post-cabin-fever interactions between Jack and Wendy Torrance.

With that positive out of the way, now let’s cover what’s wrong (and believe me, there’s lots)…

Firstly, if you’ve watched the trailers, you’ve pretty much seen the entire movie. And when comparing the film to the original trailer, there seems to be a couple of missing scenes and lines from the final cut which is disappointing (namely Elisabeth’s excellent facial expression at the Asian restaurant). Aside from a missing take, the whole “we don’t believe you… we think you’re crazy” plot really gets frustrating (think any ’70s or ’80s film where parents don’t believe their kid when they’re trying to tell them about the existence of aliens or ghosts). The sheer incompetency of Cecilia when she’s a. convincing her friend and sister of her husband’s existence b. convincing everyone of her sanity c. escaping from the authorities and d. hunting and fighting Adrian, all becomes so irritating that you want to throw your popcorn at the screen and yell “what the fuck are you doing?” to Elisabeth Moss’ character.

There’s also small niggling issues throughout the movie:

  • Cecilia being an architect doesn’t add anything to the storyline. It doesn’t help or hinder her escape/s or her counterattack.

  • There’s a conflict of interest police interview with Cecilia’s cop friend James (which removes any “real-life” believably from the proceedings).

  • Since it’s not an invisibility potion but instead an “optical” suit, surely Cecilia purchasing a pair of thermal imaging goggles would ruin the entire plot?

  • Security guards at the psychiatric hospital even after seeing a half-invisible man attacking their colleagues, yell moronic things like “lay down!” and “don’t do anything stupid!” to Cecilia 🙄.

  • During the final act, when the invisibility suit becomes something tangible and everyone is witness to its existence, the whole CCTV “proof” goes out of the window. Surely the same video proof that will set Cecilia free could also implicate her in further crimes? But no, don’t look too deeply into the plot!

Aside from these relatively minor problems, there’s also the central premise of Adrian faking his own death to “get at” his girlfriend. Think about it: why would a victim of domestic violence want any money from their psychopathic boyfriend once they’re free of them? In addition, when Cecilia hears of a “conditional” will, why would she even agree to it? Plus how does faking his death help Adrian? Surely there’s easier ways to get what he wants? I’ll not spoil the plot by saying what that is but when you see Adrian’s true intentions, you realise how idiotic the whole story is (plus Diazepam is not recommended for “certain” groups of people so why would Adrian secretly administer it to Cecilia?). I’ll also add that the wannabe twist that occurs at James’ house is so obvious that it doesn’t really qualify as a twist and the finale is also very predictable which makes The Invisible Man a let down overall.

The two best scenes (the opening Sleeping With The Enemy-esque escape, Cecilia kicking a dog bowl, and the jogger who scares her as she gets the mail) are the only really tense parts in the entire film. The menacing score helps a lot with these jump scares, in fact it’s a bigger factor than the directing which seems to be more of the same if you’ve watched Whannell’s previous films.

From Cooties to Upgrade, Leigh Whannell’s solo offerings have been somewhat impressive; they’re not necessary original but they possess enough thrills and wit for you to forget that they’re all essentially rehashes of sci-fi and horror classics. The main reason to watch this film therefore is not the plot, the writing, or the direction; it’s the acting. I love films with strong females in the lead, but it seems that critics have a tendency to ignore movies like Crawl or Greta but overrate certain female-led films like Birds Of Prey (and this) seeing feminism where they choose and overlook it when they see fit. The Invisible Man seems to be getting overrated simply because it seems relevant; it stars a woman who gets the better of an abusive man but surely domestic abuse and revenge are concepts a hundred if not a thousand year old? Don’t let recent news stories make you think this is something more than it really is. It’s just a half-decent, relatively enjoyable sci-fi thriller (with plot holes).

Visible Woman.

Writing: 6/10

Directing: 6/10

Acting: 8/10

Overall: 6/10

3 replies »

  1. Got a few more plot holes for you:

    If Cecilia left Adrian’s house with only one duffel bag, where did she get her architecture portfolio from?

    Cecilia cannot legally sign anything once she’s deemed mentally incompetent. If the trust is dependent on mental competency, why ask Cecilia to sign anything at all? She doesn’t need to and can’t.

    If Adrian has faked his death, why does he need his mobile phone, especially on vibrate?

    Why are there open cans of paint in the attic and why haven’t they congealed?

    If the invisibility suit completely obscures the eyes, nose, and mouth of the person wearing it, why does pepper spray have any affect on them?

    Completely agree with what you said about the infrared goggles. She was given $100,000 so it’s not like she couldn’t afford them.

    A very overrated film.

  2. Interesting take. My review of this if you want to compare. Welcome to follow. More coming in the week.

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