May 28, 2020
Box Office $64.91 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for some strong bloody violence and language.
Stars Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
Writer-director Leigh Whannell’s new version of The Invisible Man is a masterfully crafted example of using a relatively simple premise to build suspense while keeping the audience guessing.
The script is centered on the concept of the “invisible man” as a metaphor for the constant fear experienced by someone who escapes a traumatic situation only to wonder if they will eventually be found and hunted by their abuser.
Elisabeth Moss gives a compelling performance as Cecilia, who in the opening scenes carries out an elaborate plan to leave her boyfriend, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), in the middle of the night while he sleeps. We never see their relationship in play, only hear about it second-hand from her, which immediately puts us in her head and begins the mind games that make the film so effective.
Cecilia gets word that Adrian has died, and begins to ease out of her fears once she learns he left her a $5 million inheritance. Yet she can’t shake the feeling that he’s somehow still haunting her, surmising that as a leading scientist in the field of optics he was able to construct some sort of invisibility suit.
Her friends and family begin to doubt her sanity, and even the audience is left to wonder what’s really going on, and how much of her troubles are either in her head or a result of her losing touch with reality.
Even when the film peels back the curtain about what’s really going on, we’re still left guessing as to who is doing what, who is planning what, and whether there’s another layer of manipulation we have yet to comprehend.
And to think, the studio’s original plans for the film would have had it be a more conventional remake starring Johnny Depp as the title character, fitting into the shared “Dark Universe” of Universal movie monsters before that franchise became a non-starter after the awful 2017 version of The Mummy snuffed it out.
Instead, it was re-conceived by Whannell, co-creator (along with James Wan) of the “Saw” and “Insidious” franchises, and placed under the auspices of producer Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions, experts at crafting low-budget suspense thrillers for big returns (even before the coronavirus lockdowns cut short its theatrical run, the film grossed $126 million worldwide against a budget o $7 million).
The Blu-ray includes a terrific solo commentary track by Whannell, which is one of the better examples of such an accompaniment nowadays. Both witty and effusive, Whannell delves into the challenges of shooting the film in Australia to make it look like America, while setting up shots to cover the empty spaces where someone we can’t see might be standing.
The Blu-ray also includes nine deleted scenes totaling about 13-and-a-half minutes. The scenes are pretty good on their own and even inform some of the scenes in the final film, but why they were removed is understandable.
There are also four making-of featurettes that pack a lot of insight into less than a half-hour of screentime. The primary one is the 11-minute “Director’s Journey With Leigh Whannell,” which serves as a basic behind-the-scenes featurette and is a good companion to the commentary.
The four-minute “Moss Manifested” puts the spotlight on Elisabeth Moss and her interpretation of the role, and the five-and-a-half-minute “The Players” focuses on the rest of the cast.
Finally, “Timeless Terror” examines how Whannell reimagined the story and imbued it with modern themes.