In this quite chilling retelling of the HG Wells classic, Australian director Leigh Whannell incorporates domestic abuse and gaslighting into his film of unseen malevolence, resulting in a piece that could be a little too real for a lot of viewers.
Cecelia (Elizabeth Moss) is the partner of abuser Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who is a world leader in the technical optics field. We meet her fleeing their shared home, getting picked up by her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer), and taking refuge at the home of childhood friend-now-policeman James (Aldis Lodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). A few weeks later we learn of the death, by suicide, of Adrian and everyone expects Cecelia to move on with her life now that her abuser has gone. She can’t and suspects that he isn’t dead and that he has faked his death and used his technology skills to develop a way to stalk her unseen. Terrified and paranoid, Cecelia alienates her friends and family by insisting she is in danger but unable to prove it – until she returns to the home she shared with Adrian and discovers as technologically advanced suit that renders the wearer “invisible”. Then it is a race against time to not only save her friends but prove her sanity and ultimately get back at the man who caused it all.
Elizabeth Moss is very much the star of this show, though the support actors play their roles superbly. Moss appears in almost every scene of the film, quite often the only person in the scene and up against an unknown and unseen force. As shown in the TV series ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ she is adept at showing a strength of character at the same time as seeming vulnerable. The camera work in the film also adds to the sense of terror and confusion – using slow pans and other tricks to show slight changes to scenes, such as an opened door, or a pulled back bedsheet. This not only heightens the tension considerably, but also lets the audience in on knowing Cecelia is right, while everyone else in the film is doubting her. As the film progresses and the stakes get higher so does the violence, and while its never gratuitous, it is strong and pleasantly unexpected when it happens.
The Invisible Man is a psychological thriller, almost horror and part sci-fi, for the #metoo era. The scariest part of the film really is how true-to-life this must feel to so many women.