Following their successful partnership on the sci-fi action flick Upgrade, writer-director Leigh Whannell and producer Jason Blum have reunited to deliver a new take on H.G. Wells’s classic tale, The Invisible Man. And once again, it’s a winning combination.
Back in 2017, Universal were poised to launch a Marvel-like ‘Dark Universe’ that would revive the studio’s iconic monsters with a cast of A-listers attached. Johnny Depp was confirmed to play The Invisible Man, but when the Tom Cruise-led launch film The Mummy flopped, the concept was swiftly entombed.
Three years later, the invisible guy is back with Johnny nowhere to be, er, seen. Instead, Aussie filmmaker Whannell has reimagined the story as a standalone suspense-thriller that grabs the viewer by the throat from the very beginning, and doesn’t let go.
Adept at playing traumatised characters, Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) adds another notch here as Cecilia, a San Francisco architect who, after fleeing from an abusive relationship with her wealthy scientist boyfriend, discovers he has taken his own life and left her a fortune – with caveats, of course.
Suspecting he has faked his own death, Cecilia becomes convinced she’s being stalked by her ex, whose genius in the field of optics has rendered him invisible. Strange occurrences seem to corroborate her fears, but of course those closest to her believe she’s simply paranoid…
Eschewing the floating hat and bandaged figure of the 1933 version (while also paying subtle homage) – not to mention the gory excess of Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man (2000) – Whannell’s brilliantly innovative reinvention shifts the perspective from the invisible villain to the victim, addressing hot button topics like domestic violence and stalking, and playing the more fantastic elements with an eerie subtlety.
Moss is great in a committed performance, conveying fear in every glance and giving us a heroine to root for, as well as that sense of frustration synonymous with well executed ‘no one will believe me’ thrillers. Speaking of which, there’s a sly nod to Candyman (which played with similar tropes) that delivers one of the film’s biggest shocks.
Tense, terrific and frequently terrifying, The Invisible Man is – contrarily – a must-see.
In cinemas: February 27, 2020
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Michael Dorman, Harriet Dyer
Directed by: Leigh Whannell