By Adam Ray Palmer
Leigh Whannell is back after what seems a lot longer than two years. Following his hugely impressive second feature, Upgrade, Whannell brings us his version of The invisible Man.
Having firmly nestled in the horror-thriller genre over the past two decades, H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man was always going to be in capable hands.
The re-imagined narrative focuses on Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), a woman trapped in a violent and controlling relationship with wealthy optics scientist Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Whilst waking up early one planned night, she decides to drug him with Diazepam and attempts to escape her life of hell.
After fleeing, Cecilia hides out with her childhood friend James (Aldis Hodge), a police detective, and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). Two weeks later, Adrian seemingly commits suicide and leaves Cecilia $5 million in his will, handled by his trustee and brother, Tom (Michael Dorman). As Cecilia tries to move forward with her life, she becomes plagued by various misfortunes and strange occurrences, suspecting her ex-partner’s death was a hoax. As the series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
The last part of that sentence that I just penned, “someone nobody can see”, is the mantra to Leigh Whannell’s movie. It’s of course in the title, and obviously the core narrative, but it is also seems to be Whannell’s vision for the audience. Leigh’s Cinematographer Stefan Duscio's camerawork is expertly cunning, constantly focusing on empty frames and spaces where Adrian might be hiding; thus, creating a sense of tension that you just cannot shake off. You literally watch each sequence waiting to wince in horror.
Alongside the masterful direction and framing, Whannell excellently deceives the audience with a script full of knowing dialogue. The architect studio scene is of course trendy and cliched, and also when in the restaurant, the waiters are irritatingly polished and assertive. He uses the intentionally predictable writing to his advantage, to metaphorically bash you over the head with death when you least expect it.
The audience’s journey in The Invisible Man is equal to the f**ked up one that Elisabeth Moss goes on too. We are as much in the dark as Cecilia, and perhaps even further in the shadows as the climax comes. As I left the theatre, I could interpret three possible narratives and endings to the film I had just sat and watched for two hours, and to me that is one helluva trip, let alone incredible filmmaking from Leigh Whannell.
And this leads perfectly onto the main anchor of the movie, Elisabeth Moss. She produces a tenacious and commanding performance, worthy of awards season notice. We watch for 120 minutes as Moss goes through torment and mental deterioration as a victim of abuse, before slowly turning the tide to potential victor.
Her performance is up there with Lupita Nyong’o in Us, both being so raw and intense. Leigh recognises what he has on his hands in Moss, and by making Cecilia the focus, Whannell has entirely changed the story's emphasis. Throw in some panning shots matching the skills of Alejandro González Iñárritu, you end up with a triumphant and at times positively Hitchcockian ride. But let’s not take anything away from Moss, she makes this movie what it is, an exceptional anxiety-ridden kick.
Cineroom’s rating: 5 stars
The Invisible Man is out now in cinemas worldwide – certificate 15