The Invisible Man, written and directed by Leigh Whannell, follows Cecilia Kass as she runs away from her abusive partner, who commits suicide two weeks after. But she has a sneaking suspicion that he is still alive and is screwing with her life as revenge.
Leigh Whannell’s direction really shines through in The Invisible Man. He is able to set up the film in quite a ‘show, don’t tell’ manner. In the first scene itself, we understand that the main character wants to escape, something she has been planning for a while, and its because of her dangerous partner. It has a sense of tension that pulls you in and perfectly sets up what the film will be like on the direction and technical front. Speaking of, the cinematography and sound design are also on point. The camera work does something unique; it films blank space as if a subject is present. It succeeds in making us feel what Cecilia feels too, that there is a person following us who we just can’t see. It’s actually kind of genius.
Most of the film looks like this so at all times we feel the threat of an invisible person lurking around. The sound design knows exactly when and how to create tension. Never is there a cheap jump-scare moment where the sound drowns out and surprises you. Similar to the cinematography, it constantly works toward making us feel the presence of someone invisible. Overall, the direction and technical aspects elevate the film as they are sharp, subtle and work toward giving us a very creative experience.
Elizabeth Moss must receive tons of praise for The Invisible Man. She portrays the paranoia and fears the character is going through brilliantly. She is always fidgety and constantly looks around as if to stay alert of everything. The character truly feels like a victim of abuse because of her. How Cecilia’s past has made her what she is, is brought out really well, to the point where you do sympathise with her, but not out of pity. Other characters are not really given too much to do, but that is done on purpose as the intention is to make us go through these events as she is experiencing them.
And that’s about where all my pros with the film end. Everything else in The Invisible Man seriously brings it down, namely the script. It began beautifully, but right after the first act ends; it jumps the shark. Every scene turns into a horror trope we have seen in a million other movies. She faints out of paranoia, she slowly walks around looking for someone in a dark place, people say she has done things that she doesn’t remember, and so many more. Even though it is directed well, the core events aren’t special or different enough to lift the film.
The script also thinks it’s cleverer than it is. Characters keep pointing out small details that would prove or disprove someone’s point. This could have worked, but it’s very clear that these details are brought up specifically to move the story forward, as the same points cause a few plot holes. For example, the movie focuses heavily on CCTV cameras to get Cecilia into trouble, but the same cameras in other scenes can be used to defend her and end the movie right there.
The reveal of the ‘Invisible Man’ is also completely out of the left field. It is the last thing that fits in with the film’s tone set up to that point. It is a very obvious attempt to revamp H.G.Wells’ classic story, but they completely missed what made that story work in the first place. The twists in the film are extremely predictable. They don’t add an element of surprise to the story like they try to, and just bore you further because you see them coming from a mile away. The main character does complete her arc, but it’s a very basic and unsatisfying one. More so because of the potential, it had to be interesting. Every time there is a psychological aspect to a horror film, I am instantly intrigued, but here they fail to deeper with it. And I guess that’s the biggest problem with this movie. It starts off with heaps of potential and squanders it more and more as it goes further.
Overall, The Invisible Man uses some great techniques to create a tone and feel that is supported further by Elizabeth Moss, but drops the ball and becomes a series of failed attempts at making something smart.