In Brief: Do I dare say “see” The Invisible Man?
The 1933 movie, The Invisible Man with Claude Rains and Gloria Stewart is one of my favorite movies. Stewart’s last role was as the old woman with the diamond in Titantic. Rains’ claim to fame is as Humphrey Bogart’s inspector nemesis, and later his pal, in Casablanca. By today’s sci-fi standards the 1933 movie is rather tame, but in the 1960s when I was a teenager, it and 1960’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, helped me fall in love with the genre.
Based on Wells’ novel, the movie was — at the time — a special effects marvel. I think — even by today’s standards — it holds up.
The 2020 version of the Wells’ classic story doesn’t. It also won’t make my best-ever list. It won’t make yours either. What it is — however — is an example of what a creative director can do with decent writing, the camera and limited special effects.
No. I didn’t like the movie. Not really. But the way writer/director Leigh Whannell does the movie makes the first two acts and the shocking climax very interesting and interesting enough to recommend seeing The Invisible Man.
Hmmm, go see what you can’t see. Writing a line like that automatically brings a laugh, or at least a smile. However, this is a movie that horror film fans will want to catch. It’s very well done.
Golden Globe winner Elisabeth Moss stars as Cassie. She’s in a relationship with an abusive and controlling scientist. With the help of her sister, Cassie orchestrates an escape and hides in the home of a policeman friend and his daughter. She’s totally paranoid and is even afraid to venture a few feet out the front door.
Freedom from him isn’t really freedom until she learns her ex — Adrian Griffin — has committed suicide and left her a millionaire.
Relief is short-lived. Cassie gets the feeling she’s being watched. Then strange things begin to happen to her and around her. After awhile she becomes convinced that Adrian didn’t commit suicide at all.
He’s alive and — impossible to believe — invisible.
Moss whose work in The Handmaiden’s Tale and Top of the Lake has earned her Golden Globes, doesn’t have a whole lot to do other than evolve from terrified to paranoid and then back to terrified. She manages but gets a lot of help from Aldis Hodge (Hidden Figures), A Wrinkle in Time’s Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer and Michael Dorman.
It is Dorman who has the most fun as Adrian’s slime ball brother. He gets the honors of being the piece’s villain. Or is he? That’s part of the fun. Who is and who is not doing what’s being done.
That credit brings us to Whannell who is the real star of the movie. His script doesn’t follow Wells’ book nor the 1933 movie, but it does take elements of both. Where Whannell makes his movie work is how you don’t see what you — well — don’t see. He brilliantly uses the camera to make you — like Moss’ Cassie — believe there is something you can’t see standing in a corner or hanging out in the middle of a room.
As he pans the camera left or right, an empty corner, or a shot of the kitchen, space in the bedroom, or an equally empty living room will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. The opening sequence where Cassie escapes from the house is so good that you’ll find yourself holding your breath most of the way through.
A couple of other scenes will do the same. It’s excellent filmmaking from the guy who gave us the Saw and helped with the Insidious series.
Whannell’s modern updating of Wells’ story is packed with holes and c’mon nows, but the first two acts are really well done. Act three is fraught with problems but Whannell manages to pull it all together in a nail-biting climax.
He’s a master at making what you don’t see frightening, and when what you don’t see is an invisible character, it’s even more so. That brings us back to go see what you can’t see. If you’re a Whannell fan, or someone who likes a good thriller, do see The Invisible Man.
Director: Leigh Whannell
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Rated R for violent scenes and some language. This one is packed with intense scenes that really ought not be so intense. When a director can do that, they’re very, very good. Give The Invisible Man a 4 on the Friday Flicks with Gary 0 to 5 scale.
Click here for theaters and show times.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.