Movie review: H.G. Wells' 'Invisible Man' gets an insidious, feminist remake

Fred Hawson

Posted at Feb 28 2020 01:10 PM

Elizabeth Moss stars in 'The Invisible Man.' Handout

Architect Cecilia Kass was trapped in an oppressive relationship with Adrian Griffin, a very wealthy innovator in the field of optics. One night, she decided to escape from their beautiful fortress-like seaside mansion with the help of her sister Alice. Deeply traumatized and paranoid, she hid at the home of her old policeman friends, Detective James Lanier, and his teenage daughter Sydney.

Two weeks later, news reaches Cecilia that Adrian had committed suicide. She reluctantly met with Adrian's lawyer brother Tom to talk about an inheritance that Adrian had left her, with the condition that she had no involvement in crime and remained sound of mind. However, right after that meeting, Cecilia began to experience inexplicable events which made her look crazy in front of other people, including the very people dear to her. 

The story of an invisible man was from the fertile mind of H.G. Wells in 1897. The name of Wells' invisible man Griffin is likewise used here as the surname of Adrian. Both Griffins were experts in optics. The first Griffin used chemicals to render bodies invisible. In this new one, Griffin used a suit of micro-cameras to make himself invisible. How? No idea. They never thought it would be helpful to elaborate the technology used, even a theoretical one. However, his invisibility made his obsession to control Cecilia's life even more sinister.

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Lead actress Elizabeth Moss had been more famous in her TV roles, in acclaimed series like "The West Wing," "Mad Men" (for which she won a SAG Best Actress award) and more recently "The Handmaid's Tale" (for which she won an Emmy Best Actress award). Since we do not see her tormentor, we only see the terrifying ordeal of Moss as Cecilia. She was totally invested in this exhausting role, needing to act as if someone was throwing or pulling her around even if she was all alone in that scene. With her vulnerability all out on her sleeve there onscreen, you will feel for her as she teetered on the edge of sanity. 

The musical score by Benjamin Wallfisch was pretty intense in a lot of scenes, creating a wall of sound in those moments of extreme suspense. In contrast, there were also suspenseful moments in total silence with no music at all, and those scenes likewise kept me on edge. 

Director Leigh Whanell (writing and directing for the third time since "Insidious: Chapter 3" in 2015) had crafted a nifty and gripping thriller, complete with some feminist undertones as per recent trends in dramas. There was certainly more to this than the seemingly spoiling trailer would suggest. This Blumhouse film is a winner.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."