Movie Guru: ‘The Invisible Man’ starts strong with great concept but loses steam
I will admit that the concept is really good.
Plenty of critics are in love with the newest version of “The Invisible Man,” but the most common compliment that you hear is about the concept. The movie springboards off the basic plot of the 1991 Julia Roberts movie “Sleeping with the Enemy,” turning the classic horror monster into a controlling, abusive husband. Add a healthy dose of modern surveillance culture, and you had an idea that could have been genuinely chilling.
And the first 10 minutes of the movie fully live up to that potential. Elizabeth Moss does a fantastic job of selling her character’s fear, along with the absolute mental torture she’s gone through at her husband’s hands. It makes her husband absolutely terrifying before we’ve even seen him, or heard about anything he’s done. The way the opening is shot also helps, rendered in such breathless silence that a kicked food bowl made me jump in my seat.
But it’s not long before writer/director Leigh Whannell soon grows impatient, and that’s when the movie starts to suffer. There’s one more fantastically good revelation, but Whannell loses a lot of the movie’s tension when he confirms early on Moss’ character is reliable rather than paranoid. We know that her husband is back and out to get her, which makes it annoying rather than scary that everyone else refuses to believe her.
As the husband escalates past the point of all logic, it starts tipping past annoyance into sheer ridiculousness. Moss continues to act her heart out, bless her, but everyone else around her succumbs to such extreme plot-induced idiocy that it’s hard to forgive. We laugh when the hot young co-ed goes into the darkened basement in a slasher movie, but the supporting characters in this film are no more intelligent. Even in the face of the stupidest murder set-up I’ve ever seen in a film, they blindly trudge on in an idiocy that destroys any hope of dramatic tension.
Yet still, there are moments. Moss’s husband (played extremely well by Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has only a handful of onscreen moments, but he manages to be both disarmingly charming and absolutely chilling in all the right places. The camera remains one of the scariest elements of the movie, lingering in seemingly empty spaces in a way that manages to be absolutely foreboding each and every time. Even one of the movie’s few happy moments manages to be chilling, since we know it’ll be stripped away all too soon.
But this movie doesn’t really want to leave you breathless with tension. It’s a torture flick, designed to watch a woman suffer needlessly until she finally manages to get her revenge. Even those movies work best, however, when the world around our poor heroine is needlessly, relentlessly cruel.
Here, it’s just stupid. And there’s no concept in the world that can save that.
‘The Invisible Man’
Rated R for some strong bloody violence, and language
Screenplay and story by Leigh Whannell
Based on the novel by H.G. Wells
Directed by Leigh Whannell
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Benedict Hardie, Amali Golden, Sam Smith, Zara Michales and more
Grade: One and a half stars out of four
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at email@example.com.