The Invisible Man (2020)

The Invisible Man (2020 film) - release poster.jpgDirector: Leigh Whannell
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Benedict Hardie, Amali Golden

As each year passes, it's clear Hollywood won't leave their classic properties alone. The best thing we can hope for is how these modern day adaptations will be approached, and in this instance, it's clear Universal have learnt from their past mistakes. Rather than trying to set up future instalments, they've partnered with Blumhouse to deliver something smaller and character driven, which fits the idea of the classic Claude Rains character into a contemporary setting.

Escaping from her abusive partner in the dead of night, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) goes into hiding with the help of her sister and their childhood friend. As she's trying to put herself back together, Cecilia's ex commits suicide, and leaves her his fortune. Suspecting his death to be a hoax, Cecilia believes her ex is stalking her, despite not being able to see him.

Despite expected clich├ęs, writer and director Leigh Whannell casts no doubt as to whether Cecilia is being stalked by her invisible ex-partner. In fact, he uses this premise to smartly approach a tired trope, and show how our lead is being manipulated, by the gaslighting which is being enacted by a very real monster. Core to it all is an exceptional lead performance from Elisabeth Moss, fully committing to the lead role, while never veering into a more cartoonish portrayal. She conveys all that her character is going through so very well, as Cecilia just wants to get back to living her life, but is caught in this waking nightmare.

What especially stands out is Whannell's handling of the material, initially going off the idea that less is more. The opening scene tells all that you need to know about the characters and their relationship, as Cecilia makes her escape in the dead of night. The use of silence is unbearably tense, making for the best use since A Quiet Place, and showcasing how effectively a minimalist approach can convey the horrific elements. As we cannot see the antagonist, empty spaces are used to capture the frightful unknown, and the idea that our antagonist may be lurking closer than our very eyes can see.

As we go into the third act, the story transitions to a more traditional, pulse-pounding pace. This gives Whannell the chance to deliver slick set pieces, showing off the skills which helped to make 2018's Upgrade such a marvellous watch. It's a different way of showing the horrific practicalities of invisibility, but fits into the story just as well as the previously quieter tone did. While it feels like the story could've reached the end in a more streamlined way, it's worth this quibble for the astonishing ending. When Universal get around to rebooting their other classic monsters, here's hoping they're as effective as this tremendous piece.

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