123 years after its first publication, H.G. Wells’ infamous novel The Invisible Man is adapted for the 21st century though this time as a veiled reflection of the MeToo movement headlined by a stellar lead performance from Elisabeth Moss.
Moss plays Cecilia, a victim of domestic abuse who one night succeeds in escaping from the home of her millionaire scientist boyfriend Adrian Griffin. Taking shelter with her childhood friend Lucas, she is stunned to discover several weeks later that her boyfriend has committed suicide and left her an inheritance of $5million.
As she begins the process of rebuilding her life, a series of mysterious events take place which leads her to believe that her supposed dead ex-boyfriend is still alive and responsible, stalking her under the guise of invisibility. With the events ranging from cruel to the downright sinister, Cecilia faces an uphill battle to regain her reputation, sanity and even freedom from an enemy one step ahead of her.
With this story, we get a unique twist where the emphasis is on an original character affected by a new version of the titular character whose appearance is secondary but highly pivotal. For the film to work in part, it requires a convincing and solid performance from its lead actress, which Moss delivers with apparent ease. As the abuse victim trying to return to her life, she conveys the confusion and frustration convincingly as a victim to a force that has the upper hand over her due to the unbelievability of her claims, a metaphor for the MeToo movement.
The opening scenes in which the character makes her escape are directed in a tense manner by Leigh Whannel with a camera and car alarm playing a part in building suspense, the sequence concluding with the discovery of an item that plays a vital part in the film’s plotting.
The adaptation allows for some twisted storytelling which detail how miserable her life is becoming at the hands of the mad genius, such as a job interview which goes disastrously wrong to a false accusation of violence. The highlight however comes in an unexpected sequence at a restaurant with a knock-on effect that is reminiscent of a key scene from North by Northwest.
It is far from perfect though as the film does act as cliched at times and the supporting characters come across as second-rate, blown out the water by Moss’s performance. It also come across as slow at times and with the narrative and opportunities it has, it requires a more consistent energy, something the first half lacks at times. At two hours, one is left mulling if the film would have been better if it was shortened by fifteen minutes.
Consistency is an issue and the overall result could have been better, but a more entertaining and chilling second half redeems and makes The Invisible Man a better film than if it had a much bigger budget.
It offers something distinctive to the genre and at just $7million shows that studios don’t have to spend tens and tens of millions on explosive spectacles to make a very successful return. With that, it joins an ever-expanding list of profitable recent horrors like Get Out and A Quiet Place which prove how lucrative and effective such moderately-budgeted films can be.
OUT OF FOUR STARS: **1/2