Eighty-seven years after Claude Raines played the invisible man during Universal Pictures’ three-decade reign of iconic monsters, writer-director Leigh Whannell reboots the character that seems humdrum when compared to counterparts, Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy.
Following cues from his last film “Upgrade,” the classic story goes high-tech with a superb Elisabeth Moss who plays the victim of the unseen antagonist. The tense film keeps you riveted with real frights as Moss becomes the focus in a move that would satisfy H.G. Wells who penned the story in 1897.
Whannell wastes no time kicking the tension into high gear with an opening scene that finds Cecilia Kass (Moss) quietly getting out of bed in the middle of the night as she attempts to escape from her abusive boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) while he sleeps.
The plan involves sneaking out through the garage, scaling a fortress-like fence, making a mad dash through the woods, to rendezvous with her sister, Emily (Harriet Dyer), in a waiting car by the side of the road. You are literally on the edge of your seat within the first five minutes in what becomes a thrilling reboot to an age-old tale.
So, we know Adrian is a baddie and judging from Cecilia’s late-night dash, very possessive.
Once a promising architect, her career has been put on hold by Adrian who believes the way to a woman’s heart is to give her anything money can buy as long as she remains obedient and by his side.
While that would probably work with some women, we are in the #MeToo era and that’s not how Cecilia rolls.
Despondent over her exit, Adrian offs himself leaving behind $5 million for Cecilia with the stipulation that she never commits a crime or is ruled mentally incompetent.
Michael Dorman plays Adrian’s brother Tom, a lawyer and executor of his will. Dorman does a terrific job with the role bringing just enough sleaze and sincerity to his character that you’re never really sure if he’s trying to help or manipulate Cecilia. He admits to despising his brother, but is that a ploy to gain her trust? Remember, he is Adrian’s brother and manipulation runs in the family.
Cecilia moves in with her police detective friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid).
Living with a cop would make most people feel safe and now that Adrian is dead you think Cecilia would be able to rest easy but as she states, “It just doesn’t make any sense. Adrian wouldn’t kill himself.”
Strange things begin to happen. Is Adrian back from the dead? Has he invented some way to make himself invisible after faking his death? Or is it all in Cecilia’s imagination? As Tom puts it, “Adrian’s true genius was how he got into people’s heads.” There are a few loopholes in the plot, and these are smart characters so when they make a stupid decision it feels like a letdown.
Moss, who won a Primetime Emmy Award for her role in “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been featured in the small screen on “Mad Men,” “The West Wing,” and the BBC miniseries “Top of the Lake” which earned her a Golden Globe. She has become an Indie film staple delivering first-rate performances in “Queen of Earth,” “The Square,” and last year’s “Her Smell” as a washed up ’90s rock star in an Oscar-worthy performance.
After a cameo in Jordan Peele’s “Us,” mainstream moviegoers finally get a taste of what many of us have been enjoying for years, the acting brilliance of Moss.
In a smart move by writer-director Leigh Whannell, the film is focused on the tormented not the tormentor giving Moss free rein to turn the film into a “Sleeping with the Enemy” thriller that remains grounded in its science fiction roots. There is a great scene in a psychiatric facility where Cecilia begins to resemble Sarah Connor as the film pays tribute to “Terminator 2” but some of the best moments in “The Invisible Man” are the ones which feature Moss alone.
But is she really alone?