The Invisible Man: A Classic Thriller Concept Done Right
Because The Invisible Man proves obvious does not mean oblivious
The first time I saw the trailer for The Invisible Man, I wasn’t all that excited. Sure, it looked scary enough and Elisabeth Moss is a talented enough actress, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it resembled Hollow Man a little too closely—and I was tired of production houses recycling old concepts (and getting my hopes dashed in the process).
I’m glad to report that The Invisible Man was not a disappointment.
In The Invisible Man, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) is trapped in a violent, controlling and abusive relationship with scientist Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). With her sister’s help, Cecilia finally gets the nerve to run away one night, she goes into hiding at the house of a childhood friend, James (Aldis Hodge).
After two weeks of living in fear that Adrian will find her, Cecilia gets word that Adrian has killed himself—and left her a significant amount of money in the process. With Adrian’s brother, Tom (Michael Dorman), making sure that all things are legal and tucked in tight, Cecilia starts to live her life again. Too bad she can’t seem to shake the feeling that Adrian’s still following her.
As the above plays out during the screening, I see two roads that The Invisible Man can take in my head; it’s either Cecilia’s paranoia has turned her crazy or her genius ex-boyfriend really did find a way to make himself invisible and is out to stalk her and take his revenge. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
From the opening scene, it’s clear that the film means business. The care and patience that Cecilia takes in order to move a single inch away from Adrian is both frustrating and hair raising; her every movement is calculated and you get so caught up in things that you hold your breath in fear of making a sound. And when she makes her mistake, you are genuinely scared that things are over for her.
This level of hair-raising moments is eventually coupled by ghost-like encounters with Adrian: his footsteps on the bedsheet, a floating camera taking a photo of a sleeping Cecilia, a couch seemingly sunk into. There are, in fact, so many of these moments that it starts to get old. Midway through the movie, you start to wonder: When are we going to get on with the actual story?
Don’t worry though, because your patience will be rewarded as the narrative continues on. The pieces start to fall into place as Cecilia becomes determined to own her own life and, in choosing so, takes some drastic measures that include but are not limited to digging deep into her wrist with a fountain pen.
Quite visually and even more effectively, the movie depicts just how far abuse and trauma can take someone; it is relayed as something that is an all-encompassing feeling that never really leaves. Each decision is haunted and by past experiences and it is always fight or flight. Every choice is a battle.
And when the conclusion starts to unfold, there is a Gone Girl moment that wraps everything up in a rather unexpected manner. The Invisible Man, by the time the credits rolled, proved to me that you can take a classic concept and still churn out something that could stand on its own and still deserve to be watched.
The overall narrative aside, it cannot be said enough that Moss’s performance is a large part of why the film translates so well. She is both the protagonist and the antagonist, the crazy and the sane, the victim and the attacker. You don’t know whether to be scared of who she becomes on screen or cheer the development on. And it’s just one of the decisions you have to make for yourself as you walk out of the theater.
As of this writing, The Invisible Man has a 91% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Does it deserve it? Maybe, maybe not—but it does deserve your attention.
Art Matthew Fetalver