Somehow, Elisabeth Moss just seems uniquely prepared for a role that involves believing in the existence of a powerful being that nobody can see but should still totally believe is there. Hand to Xenu, it sure feels she’s trying to tell us something by choosing roles like the ones in Invisible Man, Us, Top of the Lake, and Handmaid’s Tale. All center on cruel, secretive, and powerful individuals or organizations that excel in being super shitty to women. Sob twice during one of your signature extreme close-ups if you need help, Elisabeth!
All dianetics being equal, Invisible Man is pretty satisfying. Were it to have slimmed down to a more slender running time, calling it fun would be more appropriate. Well, as appropriate as it ever is to call a thriller that hinges on a cycle of domestic violence “fun.” The major update here to the classic concept of “dude becomes invisible, is a real jerk about it” is that it is now framed as a #MeToo allegory. Maybe not the most nimble or nuanced of metaphors, but it works, if only because the audience shares the lead character’s frustration, as we know she’s definitely telling the truth but dumb jerks just won’t believe her.
Cecilia (Moss) escapes from her abusive boyfriend, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), during a late-night flight from his mansion, which appears furnished by an Ikea built for Batman. Cecelia hides out with her cop friend, James (Aldis Hodge), and his daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid), both of whom call her by the nickname “Cee” so often that Cookie Monster should have popped up at least once.
Cee is told that Adrian died by suicide, but he’s a lying liar who lies, so what he really did was build an invisible suit and start stalking her. The rest of the movie consists of some genuinely fantastic shots of empty corners and chairs, the best dinner scene in any movie of recent memory, and a third act of fist-pumping entertainment-as-group-therapy.
Speaking of Adrian… Dude is a billionaire inventor who designs camera stuff. Odds are better than his polling numbers that Bloomberg slaps one of these bad boys on for some stop-and-frisks at night every night. So when Cee tells people he’s got an invisibility cloak, why wouldn’t everyone believe her? Oh, right, she’s a lady. It’s not a plot hole, it actually furthers the film’s point.
That point is as delicate as a ballpeen hammer, but that doesn’t make it any less palatable or significant. Real-life Adrians don’t need trypophobia-inducing invisibility wet suits to go unpunished while they manipulate their victims’ loved ones and strip sanity from their targets. Writer/director Leigh Whannell’s decision to weld the umpteenth Invisible Man retread onto this abusive dynamic isn’t as infinitely clever as it is effective. So too are the long stretches of quiet and downright spectacular Foley work. Good for you, Foley artists! Get some love.
The whole thing should have been squeezed tighter, with at least a half hour dripping to the cutting room floor, and the final act is somewhat insultingly treated as a brilliant reveal and not Scooby Doo-level obvious. That being said, watching Moss go from caged and voiceless to liberated and powerful amidst solid jump scares and palpable tension is quality entertainment. When it comes to modern remakes of classic Universal monster properties starring Scientologists, at least it certainly beats Tom Cruise’s The Mummy!
Grade = B