One thing I learned early on while writing film reviews is to embrace your own ethnic and gender backgrounds and what makes you you. If you’re a mostly conservative reviewer and you watch a film with a mostly liberal agenda, that gives you a unique perspective when it comes to the views of that film. Personally, I give a film like “The Accountant” more praise than others because it is one of the few films to have an autistic main character and addresses what it really feels like to have autism, something I have to deal with every day.
I bring this because I had a similar reaction to “The Invisible Man” as I did with “Get Out” – delving into fears and bigotry that I can’t comprehend. As a white male, there’s a hidden subtext in both of those films that makes the terror that the main characters feel like something many people have gone through, but is something I’ve never experienced. In the case of “Get Out,” it was about the fear of racism unhinged by modern society and what privileged individuals might do to others who look different than them. With “The Invisible Man,” it is the fear of women speaking up against men having too much control over the world without any accountability, and dreading that others refuse to see or acknowledge what that could mean, like that worry is invisible to everyone else.
These fears that reflect real life worries make both movies more powerful in their subtlety, message and endearing performances. Even if I don’t fully understand how devastating these fears can be to some, both films make it clear that they’re as real as you and me and need to be addressed.
But of course, the other common point between “Get Out” and “The Invisible Man” is that, even if you remove all of that, you still have a gripping, atmospheric thriller that never lets up.
“The Invisible Man” is a modern remake of a classic Universal horror film, though the original 1933 version is far more comedy than horror. This version dives headfirst into what an invisible person could really do in today’s society, detailing the life of Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) as she leaves her abusive and controlling husband Adrian. She’s been planning this for some time, but Adrian has always been so manipulative that she fears what he would do to her if she left. But while she’s hiding at a friend-of-a-friend’s house, Cecilia learns that Adrian not only killed himself but left her five million dollars as he was one of the world leaders in optic technology, on the condition that she not commit any crimes and prove that she’s mentally stable. Just when everything seems great though, a bunch of strange things start happening around her friend’s house, including a missing knife and finding Adrian’s phone in the attic. The more Cecilia digs into it, the more she believes that Adrian isn’t dead and is stalking her without being seen.
The story is a fractured and misleading tale about two broken people. The main focus is on Cecilia, her years of abuse and manipulation haunting her like a ghost, making her constantly look over her shoulder, worrying that she’ll never be able to get away from being controlled. When she starts to believe Adrian is stalking her, all of those fears come to life and her paranoia causes her to start ruining her own life, making you even wonder if there even is an invisible stalker and she’s making all of this up.
But Adrian’s side of the story cannot be overlooked, after all the movie is named after him. One thing is made clear about Adrian from the beginning – control. He doesn’t feel safe or content with life unless he is in control of every little detail, including what his wife wears, eats, and thinks. And if he can’t have that control, then he’ll take any action necessary to regain control, especially if that means manipulating control to show that things would be better if he was in charge. This is shown in many ways, like Adrian stealing Cecilia’s laptop and writing a nasty email to her sister through her email account, or making it look like Cecilia hit her friend’s daughter. Everything is a mind game to Adrian and he wants to show that he is the most dominant and in control.
Together, this creates a wonderfully tense dynamic that plays on Cecilia’s fears and Adrian’s quest for control that never lets up. Even moments of a long shot down an empty hallway are terrifying, using negative space better than any movie in recent memory. And it’s all because of the basic carnal desires of these two leads – one that wants love and another that wants freedom, but both ultimately desire peace of mind in their own ways.
Final Grade: A