Writer/Director Leigh Whannell (Saw) brings us a chilling reimagining of the classic H.G. Wells tale, modernized to reflect what an obsessive narcissist might do if he had the capability. Excellent execution of his elegant script makes for a poignant and terrifying story.
Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) has every aspect of her life controlled by her narcissistic boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). But she has a plan to rebuild her life without him, starting with a late-night escape with the aid of her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer). While attempting to recover at the home of her friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), Emily informs Cecilia that Adrian is dead, and she has inherited part of his fortune, contingent on her staying both arrest-free and sane. Unfortunately, neither of these seems likely, as Adrian appears to have created a way to become invisible, terrorizing Cecilia to a level she has never experienced before.
Whannell’s script is a fine one with just a few minor oversights, none of which interrupt the exceptional flow of the story. Each moment progresses to the next without dragging; there is absolutely no wasted time. It is clear that Whannell did his research on the behavior of a narcissistic control freak, showing the minute details they exhibit. He also delves well into the most common two sides – friendliness mixed with condescension, and enragement when things are not entirely within his control.
Both Moss and Jackson-Cohen did their homework as well. Her victim status early in the film is very believable and frightening. It is different than her role in The Handmaid’s Tale, though, which is a testament to her growing talent as an actress. As Cecilia grows more determined, Jackson-Cohen’s Adrian becomes more unhinged and angrier. While we don’t get to see much of him, he is chilling in either aspect of the psychosis.
Odd camera angles, creepy sound effects and music, and filtered lighting work harmonize to enhance the mood of the picture. A lot of the camera work centers on the idea that there could be someone unseen in the room. As a result, the audience feels the anxiety and terror of a menacing invisible presence. The special effects used for the invisibility itself are generally stellar, but unfortunately falter during a couple of the “something invisible grabs an object” moments that don’t have the angles quite right. These are barely noticeable when the effects and music combine to stun, startle, or shock the viewer – which they increasingly do as the tale progresses.
Viewers who have been the victim of a narcissist, particularly of one that has had complete control of them, should be aware that they will likely find parts of this film difficult, if not unbearable, to watch. It is an exceptional, raw, and disturbing study of the disorder. Other than this, The Invisible Man is a film that merits being seen.