Societies New Clothes
The Invisible Man may have been a book written a wee bit of time ago in 1897, by none other than one of the fathers of science fiction H.G. Wells, but in 2020, the film adaptation by director/writer Leigh Whannell is possibly the most zeitgeisty movie I have EVER seen!
That’s the eternal power of great storytelling, and in particular of the genres sci-fi and horror, who are generationally enabled to take the germ of a truly timeless concept and adapt it to freshly rub raw the shredded emotional nerve ended tendrils of our very sanity, the story is over 100 years old, but it’s happening and silently screaming all around us at this very minute.
2018 saw the release of Leigh’s fantastically entertaining ‘Upgrade’ which he both wrote and directed as in the case of ‘The Invisible Man’ (2020). That movie brought ridiculously joyful confidence in expressive giddy human/tech movie storytelling, that was somewhat nuts, but gleefully so, in a world that had its own rules, that worked incredibly well, wonderfully helmed by Logan Marshall-Green in the lead role. It also looked fantastic. Leigh has not only replicated, but surpassed that in ‘The Invisible Man’. Again technology is involved, but the human story is the thing that he runs with, as fast as a terrified beating heart will take us. And the lead that will take us over the finish line to gold is Elisabeth Moss, who probably has the most experience of endurance of any actor around playing the lead role in The Handmaid’s Tale for multiple series.
Moss plays Cecilia Kass, and our introduction to her in the opening of the movie immediately reminded me of every single story I’ve ever heard from friends (or anyone) who have been in an abusive relationship, and that’s a seriously significant amount of people. I was watching a fictional story, but it hit me (deliberate choice of words) as if it was me, such was the intensity, and it didn’t let up for the rest of the movie.
All the stories I’ve heard over the decades have been really bad, but many resulted in staggering amounts of bravery from individuals who were absolutely on their own, isolated in brutality and seemingly without hope. And this is where we meet Cecilia, in a heart chewing opener with her attempt to escape the servitude from a psychopath, who unfortunately is incredibly rich and seemingly powerful. There seems to be quite a few of them about these days.
She literally escapes, but anyone who has ever been abused in any capacity knows that you never really completely escape, and the palpable effects of Cecila continue in gut-wrenching moments of discomfort, vulnerability and bare humanity. There’s many a moment where we would gladly jump into the screen to give her a hug, to console her, to stop her jumping into the darkness of fear and madness. All of this is done with incredible performances by everyone involved across the board from writing, performance, directing and basically the entire crew. Everyone knows this is not just telling a tale, this is vital storytelling decorated with entertainment.
Cecila hopes it’s all over, but so then would the movie. It’s not, by a LONG way. We’ve mentioned it loads of times before, but marketing seems absolutely set on destroying the movie experience. I had only seen a very early version of the trailer which effectively set the tone, but I was 100% on board just with the combination of Moss and Whannell alone. That was all I had to see. The latest trailer gives away WAY too much of moments I had no idea were coming, moments that literally made me leap in fear. So I’d advise not watching it.
So the descent into the invisible hell that is insanity begins, for Cecila and us. Whannell has done an incredible job of both gaslighting the character, and us, as we both start to see (and particularly) hear possible threat in every ‘empty’ space around us. Frames are left wide open, off kiltered, that we immediately fill with dread, we are triggered with sounds, that removes any sense of calm. The psychosis becomes all too real where your reality is slowly eroded before your very eyes. Not only is this key to the story, but it’s at the core of all the abusive relationships. We start and continually fill everything with sickening unease, effectively what mainstream media does to us all.
The modernisation of the story is outstanding on every level. I have seen valid points on certain aspects of the film, but given that it has an invisible dude traipsing around, I’m personally extremely happy to not fill that space with criticism that is somewhat irrelevant. There are SO many amazing things about the journey, that such points are actually missing the point. For this story to get such a big release is a stunning achievement in itself. It steps up to and fully takes on the invisible monster that has existed in society since the existence of mankind, the abuse of women by men. Like the kid in the Emperor’s New Clothes, by pointing out what’s not there, it’s directly saying what is.
There are so many set pieces, incredibly inventive, beautifully shot, creating absolute dread, but anchored in the human experience, and yet still look amazing, there is a true balance in the story, performances and how it all looks ( I LOVED the opening credits too). It has the vibes of an outstanding b movie, as if directed by Hitchcock, but chooses to embed a profound message of truth and most importantly, hope front and centre. It’s also seriously great fun, that’s not at the expense of intelligence.
Evolving at a phenomenal pace, Whannell is admirably sprinting into a much brighter future. His next project is the remake of Escape From New York, which I’m not sure should be made (it’s one of my all time favs), but after The Invisible Man and Upgrade, I’ll support anything he wants to do, and will be first in line to see it when it’s done, as he continues to make films that are true cinematic experiences.
10/10 The Invisible Man is out now.