THE INVISIBLE MAN IMAX Movie Poster | ©2020 Universal Pictures/Blumhouse

THE INVISIBLE MAN IMAX Movie Poster | ©2020 Universal Pictures/Blumhouse

Rating: R
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Writer: Leigh Whannell, based on the novel by H.G. Wells
Director: Leigh Whannell
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: February 28, 2020

THE INVISIBLE MAN, the latest incarnation of H.G. Wells’s influential novel, is a reasonably smart horror thriller. Director/writer Leigh Whannell has largely, albeit not completely, figured out how to avoid what would seem to be the most problematic aspect of the premise. Better, Whannell’s script sets up situations that are not prompted by anybody doing something boneheaded in the face of danger.

THE INVISIBLE MAN starts with a sadly all-too-real scenario, a woman – here, Elisabeth Moss’s Cecilia Kass – fleeing an abusive relationship, in fear for her sanity and for her physical safety. Cecilia’s boyfriend, Adrian Griffin (Olvier Jackson-Cohen) is a brilliant young scientist who specializes in optics and surveillance equipment. Cecilia’s escape from their shared home is one of the most suspenseful sequences in the film. Since it’s the opening, we’re inclined to expect she’ll make it out, but Moss makes us believe Cecilia’s fear so thoroughly that we’re scared anyway.

Cecilia’s sister Alice (Harriet Dyer) is entirely sympathetic to Cecilia’s fears about Adrian’s reach. Rather than the obvious – after all, Adrian knows where Alice lives – it’s arranged for Cecilia to stay with Alice’s police officer boyfriend James (Aldis Hodge) and his teen daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). So far, so good. But then some very weird stuff starts happening. Cecilia comes to a correct conclusion about what’s going on, but when she tries to get help, even her closest allies think she’s going crazy.

It’s both a plus and a minus that Cecilia so quickly realizes Adrian has found a way to make himself invisible. On the one hand, it’s a bit of a logic glitch. Cecilia knows Adrian’s a scientist, and a stalker, but it doesn’t seem like she had learned enough about his work to reach such an improbable (albeit right) deduction at such speed. On the other hand, it’s a relief to see a movie that doesn’t want the audience to be way ahead of the protagonist. It also keeps the plot in steady motion.

THE INVISIBLE MAN IMAX Movie Poster | ©2020 Universal Pictures/Blumhouse

THE INVISIBLE MAN IMAX Movie Poster | ©2020 Universal Pictures/Blumhouse

There are some nice creepy moments, with subtle changes in the environment caused by the Invisible Man, but the invisibility has its drawbacks as a filmic device. It’s hard to create scare payoffs with something we know we won’t see. More, having a character battling and/or dragged around by an invisible force runs the risk of just being silly. Filmmaker Whannell has come up with impressively inventive solutions to this issues. He also keeps the stakes escalating, and makes sure that we care about the characters.

THE INVISIBLE MAN is not averse to humor when it fits, with Hodge’s restrained reactions making him the MVP in this regard. Moss brings becoming intensity and intelligence to the tormented Cecilia. Reid is appealing as Cecilia’s young supporter and Dyer has thoughtful strength as sibling Alice. Jackson-Cohen hits all the right notes as Adrian, and Michael Dorman is suitably unpleasant as Adrian’s brother.

This version of THE INVISIBLE MAN is entertaining, of the moment, and clever enough to satisfy, without ever getting too pleased with itself. In short, it’s a good movie.

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