SHOWMAX FILM REVIEW: OH! THE THINGS you could do if you could slip into invisibility at a whim, and redress imbalances, tracelessly slaughter your enemies and startle the ones you love – or just eavesdrop on their lives. The evocative premises of Leigh Whannell’s 2020 film The Invisible Man present philosophical spinoffs on an idea coined in the 1930s by HG Wells. The film is a recent release on Showmax.
If, however, you are a brilliant sociopath, you might use said invisibility skills for heinous purposes, and this is the central idea of the work, which features Elisabeth Moss as Cecelia Klass, the hapless wife of said sociopath. With narrative lines that gather up issues of wife abuse, gas lighting and science fiction, as well as the price of untold wealth, it’s a rip-roaringly fabulous thriller, which will keep you holding onto your seat: there are hairpin bends here which will surprise even the most perceptive of watchers.
And while the idea of invisibility offers a very profound gloss on blindness, and immensely curious ideas about how a seeing society embraces the one who cannot see, there is a moment or six where the earnestly scary premises skitter a tad and become burlesque and occasionally laughable. This is a danger of films designed to chill you to your marrow. Sometimes they can do the opposite. Like William Friedkin’s 1973 The Exorcist, which is dated, particularly in the chills department.
Don’t get me wrong: Moss is fantastic as the beleaguered young woman who knows something that no one else believes. It’s something she does incredibly well. Have a look at Hulu’s popular series The Handmaid’s Tale based on Margaret Atwood’s eponymous novel. The unfortunate reality is that the nuances of the role in this film are so similar to that of the series, that The Invisible Man is stripped of its own sense of uniqueness, and there are moments when you think Cecelia is actually Offred and will don her white bonnet and red cloak soon.
But if you shelve your remembrance of series past and consider this film for what it presents, you will mostly be compelled by the performance of Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Cecilia’s husband. This role skirts thriller stereotypes and is handled as a strong vessel for some of the work’s key twists. And then there is Zeus, the Doberman, who is not credited, but lends a real edge to the whole context.
It’s a great piece of watchable material, with a little bit of an edge to keep you second-guessing and maintain your levels of emotional disruption, but on the whole it is one that you might forget as the credits roll up.
The Invisible Man is directed by Leigh Whannell and features a cast headed by Michael Dorman, Harriet Dyer, Nash Edgerton, Xavier Fernandez, Vivienne Greer, Benedict Hardie, Aldis Hodge, Nicholas Hope, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Nick Kici, Renee Lim, Cardwell Lynch, Brian Meegan, Zara Michales, Serag Mohamed, Elisabeth Moss, Storm Reid, Sam Smith, Cleave Williams and Anthony Brandon Wong. Written by Leigh Whannel based on the eponymous 1933 novel by HG Wells, it is produced by Jason Blum and Kylie Du Fresne, and features creative input by Benjamin Wallfisch (music), Stefan Duscio (director of photography), Andy Canny (editing), Nikki Barrett, Sarah Domeier Lindo and Terri Taylor (casting), Alex Holmes (production design) and Adam Johansen, Damian Martin and Emily Seresin (costumes). It is available on ShowMax.