Kyle Shaun Thomas
Review- The Invisible Man
“He said that wherever I went, he would find me, walk right up to me, and I wouldn’t be able to see him”
The first film following the collapse of Universal’s Dark Universe is 2020’s The Invisible Man, but this time instead of being focused solely on a person dealing with the science of becoming invisible, it replaces the concept with a look at domestic abuse in relationships.
The film follows Cecilia Kass (played by Elisabeth Moss) as she becomes convinced her domestic ex-partner Adrian Griffin (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has turned himself invisible and is tormenting her relentlessly.
Moss’s performance not only accurately depicts the isolation and mental trauma of receiving such physical and mental abuse but also shows several steps to recovery as well as the many pitstops along the way.
One of the early scenes shows how she struggles to even leave her home and reach the end of the driveway without feeling like Adrian is somehow observing her. Moss even manages to accurately capture the subtle nuances of an abuse victim with the perfect example being seen when she learns of the death of her abuser and she isolates herself in the bathroom staring into space with her face not giving away a single emotion. Her portrayal still communicates enough that every audience member can immediately understand every thought inside her head.
What helps solidify Moss’s performance is the help of supporting characters- Emily Kass (played by Harriet Dyer) and James Lanier (played by Aldis Hodge), who guide and help rehabilitate Cecilia, each with their own realistic behaviors. Emily attends meetings with Cecilia to discuss legal matters and even goes so far as to command the scene and attention so that her sister wouldn’t have to relive the ordeal she has endured for so long.
James, on the other hand, provides a home to Cecilia when she first escapes Adrian’s clutches at the start of the film.
All this is build-up makes the frustration us as the audience feel even greater when these pillars of support and recovery are demolished, as Adrian begins his torment and forcing characters to distrust Cecilia, thinking it may all be in her head.
Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s performance as Adrian Griffin expresses all the major negative behaviors and tropes found with abusers, with his dialogue especially communicating realistic gaslighting. During a confrontation with Cecilia, he uses specific phrases such as “it’s in your head” and “I know you better than anyone”. The scariest part of his performance is his complete and utter avoidance of acknowledging all of the faults being brought to his attention and redirecting the issues back on Cecilia
One of the standout elements of the film is its camera work. Cinematographer Stefan Duscio (Jungle) use of wide shots not only communicates the isolation of Cecilia perfectly but leaves spectators scouring the frame to find any glimpse of evidence that Adrian is there.
As well as creating unending amounts of tension through tracking shots of her, that never confirm if we are watching from a camera angle or instead creeping towards her from the point of view of the tormentor. Another unsung crew member is composer Benjamin Wallfisch (Blade Runner 2049) who’s music creates insurmountable amounts of tension not only in the fast-paced action scenes but also in the complete unease in scenes where Cecilia begins to notice subtle changes around her.
The film itself succeeds greatly in creating memorable and well-constructed scenes of horror, without a doubt one of the greatest examples revolving around Cecilia finally laying her eyes on Adrian for the first time since the declaration of his supposed death. In this scene the film embraces its use of natural sound, putting all music aside and allowing for every creak of a floorboard and rustle of clothes to resonate in the spectator’s chest before finally paying off.
And even when all is said and done, and you believe that Cecilia has overcome all of the distress inflicted, the film manages to twist things around even more so. Doubling down on its social commentary with a scene that will have every audience member gritting their teeth and becoming flushed with anger before the final curtain falls.
Overall it is safe to say that Director/Writer Leigh Whannell had a clear vision for his take on The Invisible Man and tackled a real-world commentary that would be no easy feat for most veteran directors.
It is clear from every performance and line of dialogue spoken in the film that there was perfect understanding and respect for those who have suffered and are still suffering from domestic abuse.
Elisabeth Moss is an inspiration for all those dealing with these issues as we see her at the end of her road with absolutely no sign of hope but yet she still manages to pull herself back together. It shows that there is still a way to move forward no matter how far gone you might think you are.
Whanndell succeeds in using the horror and sci-fi elements in a way that they have always been intended, to create a dialogue about something topical through means of entertainment. I will even go so far as to say that this film deserves to be placed next to Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar award-winning Parasite.
A chilling, and captivating horror, which is one of first great movies of 2020.