Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge and Storm Reid
Directed by Leigh Whannel
Written by Leigh Whannel and H. G. Wells
This week’s review takes a look at the latest work of Leigh Wannel, the director who received critical acclaim for his stylistic action in his 2018 release, ‘Upgrade.’ This next venture sees the Australian director look to convey the horrors of disbelief in abusive relationships through a metaphorical scope, with the terror of there being no witnesses replacing what no one can witness – the Invisible Man. Our protagonist, Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), escapes an abusive relationship, only to discover a few days later that her ex-boyfriend has killed himself. Plagued by the emotional trauma of their relationship, Cecilia can’t help but feel like her abuser hasn’t truly left her behind.
One of the first questions that must have been asked going into this project would have been, “How do you film something that is invisible?” Leigh Wannel and his cinematographer Stefan Duscio answer this question brilliantly, with the narrative being carried by consistently unnerving camerawork. There are moments of tension in which we know the Invisible Man is there, and the audience begins to question whether he is directly in front of the lens, or whether we are in fact seeing the events from his point of view. By visually building tension in such a manner, the viewer further engages with the fear that our protagonist is experiencing. Some people are put off by thrillers or horrors because of the experience they provide, and by using intriguing cinematography within his film, Wannel’s film becomes only a more engaging experience.
Once again, Elisabeth Moss demonstrates what a versatile actress she is, with moments of true terror balanced by scenes of kindness towards those around her that develops her character emotionally, allowing the audience to engage with her. However, despite Moss’s excellent performance, the development of the entire cast is hindered by the script. The film is successful as a concept, with the focus being entirely on Cecilia’s relationship with her abusive ex-boyfriend. Aside from that, there is only a surface-level exploration into how her relationships have been affected by her experiences, and as a result it becomes difficult to see the characters as little more than victims of the story’s phantom. Despite this, I do believe that the metaphorical exploration into abuse in relationships is successful, with the pain that Cecilia experiences when unable to explain her situation explicitly showing just how torturous the lies surrounding domestic abuse can be. She doesn’t just suffer physically, but mentally her abuser torments her, with his presence casting a shadow over her at all times.
It’s undeniable that ‘The Invisible Man,’ is a well-executed thriller, with great moments of tension developing throughout the film. Wannel appears to understand exactly when each new horror should be unveiled, and despite the story mainly taken place across various households and buildings, the thrill maintains its biting edge.
‘The Invisible Man’ feels like another step forward in the career of a relatively young director, and further demonstrates his capabilities when crafting a thrill. The film is a must-watch for fans of the genre, and definitely one that would serve as a great introduction to thrillers. I look forward to seeing where Leigh Wannel directs his talents next.