Leigh Whannell, who directed the surprising Upgrade in 2018, has returned with a remake of The Invisible Man. At one time a proposed member of Universal's ambitious shared monsterverse (with Johnny Depp attached), this non-monsterverse reboot was written and directed by Whannell and stars Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. It focuses on Cecilia Kass (Moss), who leaves her abusive boyfriend, Adrian Griffin (Jackson-Cohen), but believes he's stalking her despite his suicide not long after their separation.

The wrinkle is that Adrian, a brilliant scientist, has discovered a way to become invisible and, with those around Cecilia believing Adrian's dead, he has free reign to haunt her and ruin her life. From her perspective, viewers experience Cecilia's pain and horror while her immediate friends and family, police officer friend James Lanier (Hodge), his daughter Sydney (Reid) and Cecilia's sister Harriet (Dyer), all see a woman who's grown paranoid and dangerous and is losing her grip on reality. It all makes for an effective horror that's fresh, compelling and imaginative.

Whannell dabbled with sci-fi in Upgrade, and added horror elements that made for an interestingly entertaining film. With Invisible, Whannell went the other way – this is a clear horror film with sci-fi elements. His prologue sets the horror tone early – Cecilia leaves Adrian by having to escape him - sneaking out late at night. She's living in a prison being with Adrian and Whannell quickly establishes Cecilia as a victim seeking freedom and Adrian as a captor who wants to control every aspect of Cecilia's life. That theme is the film's backbone – it feeds into perceptions of the battered housewife and sells Cecilia's legitimate fears as mere crazy talk and paranoia. It's a smart move which viewers will benefit from throughout.

As an added bonus Invisible provides some fantastic performances, namely from Moss. Moss is a proven actor, thanks to a memorable turn on Mad Men and an award-winning role on The Handmaid's Tale and Top of the Lake. She is excellent as Cecilia because she's providing all the stakes in scenes where she's technically by herself. Reportedly, Whannell asked for Moss' input in molding Cecilia's persona in an effort to provide a more authentic female perspective. The result is a layered character in which the damsel in distress is forced to change and adapt in order to survive. That metamorphosis is not often seen in a female role, but kudos to Whannell and Moss for getting it onscreen and getting it right. And despite the fact that invisibility isn't possible, this tale includes a specific, grounded reality because it's surrounded by real, relatable and believable themes.

Aldis Hodge, who was overlooked for his performance in 2019's Clemency, gets to do more this time around. He, too, provides strong work by being steadfast, subtle and not a stereotypical cop. His James is a protector to both Sydney and Cecilia and, despite rising doubt, is still there to support and help his friend. It's easy for most to dismiss a friend's claims that a dead boyfriend is still alive and invisible, but James makes the effort to at least hear Cecilia out. That takes courage and patience and Hodge is excellent at displaying both. Hodge is an excellent and unsung actor – hopefully he'll score that big role that will serve notice to his talents.

And, if nothing else, Invisible will keep you guessing. There are some things viewers will be able to point out long before it happens, which at first looks like a negative. But after seeing some of the twists and turns Whannell provided, it's easier to believe he placed the easy stuff there to keep us from expecting his surprises. That's strong writing, in addition to devising a story doesn't at all resemble H.G. Wells' novel but still embodies some of the author's intended themes.

On a budget of just $7 million, The Invisible Man is genius work from a thoughtful Leigh Whannell. Whannell and Moss make a great team who've made an excellent film that's scary, suspenseful, topical and, most of all, memorable.

4 stars out of 5


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