The Invisible Man (2020, Leigh Whannell)

The Invisible Man is surprisingly okay. I mean, once you realize it’s just going to be lead Elisabeth Moss in constant terror of an invisible abusive partner lashing out at her and Moss is good at being terrified for long periods, it seems like a bit of a gimme, but until the middle of the movie… it could potentially be good even.

Unfortunately director (and writer) Whannell can’t figure out how to turn his actual invisible man into a good visual monster—the eventual set pieces are like video games where you’re in stealth mode and the biggest effects sequence ends the second act, which… I guess is good if it’s because Whannell’s got no confidence in his abilities to pull off a bigger set piece. Odds are it would’ve been disappointing.

The movie stops being scary once they “visualize” the invisible man, it stops being much good in the third act. The Invisible Man runs two hours. Even with ten minute end credits, Whannel has to pad a bunch of it out so there are multiple twists and reveals. Especially since there are no subplots and the whole “everyone thinks Moss is making it up” stuff only matters for a bit at the beginning of the second act and then it’s inconsequential because everything’s a long suspense sequence. Moss’s friends not believing her is just the longest expository section before the next suspense sequence, it’s not like Whannell’s actually got narrative ambitions.

The movie opens with Moss escaping abusive boyfriend Oliver Jackson-Cohen (who’s terrible). Moss’s sister, Harriet Dyer (not good and definitely the worst performance before Jackson-Cohen gets to shine), helps her but they’re not close enough Moss has told Dyer why she needs help.

Moss stays with family friend Aldis Hodge, who’s a cop we find out later–Invisible Man loves cops, at one point Moss tells Dyer she’s awesome because she’s like a cop, it’s a weird flex but Whannell’s dialogue is fairly vapid and Moss’s worst scenes are the expository ones so whatever. Hodge being a cop isn’t really going to be important. The movie pretends it’s important, up until the very end, but it’s not important at all.

Hodge isn’t good. He’s profoundly disappointing.

Storm Reid is his precocious teenage daughter. She’s pretty good. It’s not a good part and she’s eventually and inevitably reduced to potential slasher victim number four or whatever. But she’s pretty good. Especially compared to Hodge and Dyer.

After some relative calm and good news and putting her life back together stuff, we get to the invisible man antics. Only The Invisible Man is low budget and pragmatic about it so the antics are mundane, pseudo-inventive stuff. Pseudo because there’s CGI and it’s easy to get rid of any strings.

And because Whannell shoots everything in long shot and then has the action unfold in the long shot. Again, easy now thanks to CGI and relatively effective so long as Moss can stay terrified. And she can.

Before The Invisible Man and during the ineffective stylized opening titles, I wasn’t expecting much. By the hour mark, I was expecting at least something. With the blah third act and so many middling (at best) performances, it comes in definitely about not much but decidedly below at least something.

But still much better than expected regardless.

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