Elisabeth Moss Cecilia Kass
Oliver Jackson-Cohen Adrian Griffin
Harriet Dyer Emily Kass
Aldis Hodge James Lanier
Storm Reid Sydney Lanier
Michael Dorman Tom Griffin
Well I’m back! After a month of trying to enjoy the last little bit of summer and a few road trips to the wine developing areas of our province, my wife and I decided to watch a film on a Friday night. For this film we chose the latest version “The Invisible Man” released in 2020. Throughout film history there has been somewhat over a dozen films that have captured the whole invisible man concept. Some better than others, several were comedies and a few had a string of sequels. In each instance they have tried to interpret the vision of H.G. Wells original thriller/sci-fi novel of 1897. Now of the dozen plus versions of this concept, in truth I have only watched a few i.e. Hollow Man, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Memoirs of an Invisible Man and Hollow Man 2. As I mentioned, some were better than others, but I have to say that this latest version starring Elisabeth Moss was one of the more enjoyable ones.
This latest version did not emphasize on the scientist or madman who wants to become invisible, it centers on the victims. Cecilia Kass (Moss) is in a horrible marriage, she has been abused, beaten, assaulted and demeaned by her husband and she is just trying to escape. We, the audience find this out in the opening sequence as we watch a terrified Kass (Moss) run around the house looking for a way out while her maniac of a husband is chasing her. After a few close calls she makes it to the road, just running and screaming madly. Luckily, a lady stops on the road, picks her up and takes her to a friends’ house. We later discover that the lady, was in fact her sister Emily (Dyer) and her long time friend is James Lanier (Hodge) who just happens to be a cop and a single father to his daughter Sydney (Reid). In essence that was the first 10 minutes of the film. Sure, there are some holes in the story that we try to figure out, and it is not until the lady, ok her now you know that she is the sister drops by the friends’ house to tell her that her husband is in fact dead; so she can start to live her life anew. It is then that a few of these gaps are filled.
In the next scenes, we are introduced to a really sleazy lawyer type, Tom Griffin (Dorman) who is not just a piece of slime, he is also the brother of the deceased. After revealing that Cecelia Kass (Moss) will be the recipient of a large inheritance (with some conditions), she returns to her friend’s house to share her newfound wealth. Shortly after this, we see some strange occurrences in Cecelia’s (Moss) life. Things disappear, move, turn on/off and unexplained noises occur in the night. Naturally, Cecelia (Moss) becomes terrified as she believes that her ex-husband is still alive and it has been a huge plot all along. This is actually where the movie starts to get really interesting. Not wanting to give out too many spoilers, let me just state that the film’s intensity increases, there are a few twists and turns, and the film finishes with a great fight and a satisfactory conclusion.
So let’s start with what I did not like about the film. First, after the initial opening where we find our heroine running around crazily looking for a way out of the house, the next 20 minutes is slow, and I mean slow. We have some characters with no real backstory or raison d’etre. For example, the friend where she finds refuge after leaving her husband. James Lanier (Hodge). Here we have a single father who is taking this crazed women in. Ok, she is a friend, but the back story of their relationship is never revealed. Especially when we find out how much cash she is willing to share with him and his daughter from her new found wealth. Now, this must be a great friend to share that kind of coin! There should have been at least a little more substance to those characters and their relationship. I spent a while just trying to figure out how he played into the story line, and whether there was some sort of sub-plot that I was missing.
Additionally, the character of the sister, Emily (Dyer). Again, where is the substance and meat to the character. Ok, she is a sister so there is the familial bond, but too many times during their conversations there is indications that there is more to the relationship and how she helped her sister over the years. Were these story points left on the editor’s floor? Maybe, or did the director just want to get to the slash and gore and not worry on how they got there? I don’t know. Either way, I was not really impressed on this character’s development as well.
The final point that did not impress me in the film was the fact that the “invisible man” seemed to possess superhuman strength. This was a bit far fetched once the “invisible man” and what/who he is has been revealed. The fight scenes were a little out there in this respect, for when an individual would grapple with their invisible adversary, the only advantage would be that they could not see what he was doing and only feel the effects. But once the victim got a grip on their foe, the strength of the person should come through and make the battles a bit more even in some cases. However, it would not have the same dramatic effect on the screen if it was done that way.
Now let us look at the characters that make up “The invisible man”:
Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass: First, I must say that I am not a huge fan of Moss, I can pretty much take or leave her in a film. Sure, she was good in Mad Men, but that was an ensemble piece and she was in a supporting role. I have heard good things about the Handmaid’s tale, but I have yet to watch it. Besides this film, I have yet to watch her in something that she was the principal star. But enough of her previous work. In “The Invisible Man” I found her character to be a tad too eccentric for me, yes her character was supposed to be scared and recovering from an abusive marriage, but to me, it was an uneven performance. Don’t get me wrong, we did enjoy the film and her role as the lead, but to my taste, it was missing something. Maybe, it was the fault of the editing or script, I am not sure, as I could not put a definitive finger on what it was absent for it to be a truly great role.
Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Adrian Griffin: Jackson-Cohen was the abusive husband, and to be honest was relatively new to me. The only other role I had seen him in was as Ronnie in Mr. Selfridge, a Masterpiece Theatre production that funnily enough is what my wife and I are watching right now. But, back to his character, Cohen only had a very limited amount of screen time, as his role was more that of the unseen nemesis. When on screen, he was usually yelling and running around so we did not really see any “talent” from him if you will. The main focus of his character was the pieces that you did not see of him, just what was described by the others. All in all, a minor role, with no real on-screen impact.
Harriet Dyer as Emily Kass: This is another role that only had minor screen time. Dyer played the sister well and demonstrated a believable amount of emotion and angst when dealing with her sister’s situation. Her chemistry with the main characters seemed weak to me, and even when confronting her sister (Cecelia – Moss), it appeared forced. Again, Dyer is an actress whose work is largely unfamiliar to me so I had nothing else to compare it to. So overall, her performance was adequate to assist the storyline and pace, but not something that was memorable in my eyes. I would have to see her in another role to give me something to compare this performance with.
Aldis Hodge as James Lanier: I have mixed opinions on Hodge in Lanier role. First, while I found his acting to be fine, not great, but fine, his character was one dimensional and had no back story to justify the significance of his relationship with Cecilia (Moss). If he was such a good and old friend, so much so that she could stay with him and his daughter for extended periods, why did he not intervene earlier in her abusive relationship. On top of that, he is supposed to be a cop! Why did he not assist before? His character required more backstory and fleshing out. This is not the fault of the actor, but that of the writer/director/editor. For all we know there was more to his character than what was presented in the final film. Additionally, he is a big guy, while fighting the “Invisible Man” you would think that once he got a hold of the guy, he would be able to do some damage. Unfortunately, he gets tossed around and smacked down like a rag doll. Looking at his IMDB profile, he has been in many small roles in shows that I have watched over the years, i.e. Numbers, ER, Bones, CSI, The Walking Dead and a Good day to Die Hard. But obviously he nor his characters have left a lasting impression to me. However, I do see potential, and maybe he just needs the proper role to give his career a catalyst that it requires.
Michael Dorman as Tom Griffin: This was actually my favourite character of the film. He was equally spineless and sleazy at the same time. His sleaziness just oozed out of the character and infected everything around him. I thought that Dorman played this character beautifully! Even though he only had a small amount of time on screen, his presence had a great affect, and he literally stole whatever scene he was in. As with the other characters, when checking the resume on IMDB, I was surprised that he was in other films/shows that I had watched, but could not remember his role/character. However, after seeing him in “The Invisible Man” I will pay much more attention to his characters in the future.
So what did we like about the film you ask? I actually loved the camera work and direction for the most part. The ability for the camera to look at a portion of the room to give you the impression that there was something there was fantastic. It just fit I also enjoyed how the camera would put the characters (visible ones) to the side of the frame, thus giving you the illusion that the nemesis was in the empty space. For me, that was the highlight of the film. I accepted some of the one dimensional characters and plot holes to watch the camera work the scenes and thus heighten the tension!
So would I recommend this film and were we entertained? I would have to say yes to both questions. “The Invisible Man” was a fine addition to the H.G. Wells repertoire of film adaptions. It had the tension, and excellent camera work that some of the earlier versions lacked. As I previously mentioned, I enjoyed the perspective of the victim rather than the aggressor in the film. This was a new way of enjoying the film that set it apart from the others. If you are a fan of Moss and a fan of the genre, then please give this one a try. You may find the same one dimensional characters and plot holes as I did, but sit back and appreciate the camera work, you will be entertained. Of that, I am sure.
My Score: 6/10
Till Next time!