The Invisible Man: Tangibly good
In Leigh Whannell’s movie The Invisible Man, the writer/director plays upon one of our biggest fears: the things that can’t be seen. Unbearably tense, smart, and well-acted, The Invisible Man chronicles the journey of a domestic abuse survivor who escapes her crazed ex-husband Adrian. After he is presumed dead by suicide, Cecilia, the protagonist, notices eerie signs of his presence and cannot shake the feeling that he’s somehow near her. As he is a successful scientist, she soon realizes that he somehow faked his own death and has created a way to be invisible. But no one believes her, and soon, he has found a way to frame her for a number of crimes. Cecilia is forced to take matters into her own hands.
Based on a 1933 book by H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man highlights many aspects that have come to define toxic masculinity: arrogance, violence, and cruelty. But it also portrays the effects of domestic abuse in a new and fresh way. The original book was more of a science fiction story, but Whannell takes all elements of science-fiction out to transform The Invisible Man into a psychological thriller. Whannell wants the audience to share Cecilia’s hysteria and paranoia, to feel her pain and to wonder with her where Adrian is.
The way that The Invisible Man is filmed is so simple and effective that it’s almost beautiful. A large part of the tension of the movie is not knowing if Adrian is in the room with her or not. So the camera often pans to a seemingly empty corner of the room, tapping into the fear of the unknown of the audience. Elisabeth Moss, as Cecilia, also delivers an incredibly complex and thorough portrayal of a character forced to confront her fears, one who is terrified yet courageous, sure yet paranoid, vulnerable but strong.
As with any movie, there are a few plot holes regarding transportation and logistics. But regardless of these minor imperfections, The Invisible Man remains a chillingly tense account of a woman pushed to the brink of madness. Because it focuses so much on Cecelia and her psychological state, it neglects the character of Adrian and when we finally meet him in the end, he is ultimately a two-dimensional character. But that serves only to show that in the end, he is a pathetic man who only controls Cecilia if she allows him. It also parallels some of the concerns with domestic abuse in today’s world. It opens to a larger question: what is it that makes a domestic abuse story credible? If a woman is hit by an unseen hand, as Cecilia was, is it worth investigating? Or should it be forgotten?
The Invisible Man is a mind-bender that is—above all—scary. There is something to be said about not revealing too much and allowing tension to slowly build up, and Whannell has mastered the art of subtle terror. This new iteration of an old story is suspenseful and will have pulses pumping throughout its runtime.