The writer and director Leigh Whannell’s new, loose adaptation of H. G. Wells’s 1897 novel “” harks back to a much earlier invisible-man tale: the Ring of Gyges, from Plato’s Republic. Gyges found a ring that could turn him invisible, and he used the power to become a rapist—to “commit adultery with the queen.” The teller of the tale, a character named Glaucon, claims that anyone who possessed the ring would use it “to go into houses and have intercourse with whomever he wanted.” Whannell’s version of “The Invisible Man,” likewise, is the story of a predator, and a sexual predator—even though it would be a spoiler to go into great detail about his crimes.
2020欧洲杯体育在线网址For that matter, Whannell’s “The Invisible Man” is a movie that begs not to be described, because more or less everything interesting in it has to do with plot, and its plot twists deliver most of its considerable pleasures. In other words, obliqueness alert: I will keep my descriptions allusive in the effort to avoid spoilers.
The movie is launched with a backstory of abuse. Elisabeth Moss plays Cecilia Kass, an architect who, in the first scene, stealthily and fearfully escapes from a gated and electronically guarded oceanfront compound, in Northern California, where she lives with her boyfriend, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a fabulously wealthy inventor who specializes in optics. Adrian’s abusive violence is quickly in evidence when he punches his fist through the window of the escape vehicle—driven by Cecilia’s sister Emily (Harriet Dyer).
Cecilia takes refuge in the home of her friend James Lanier (Aldis Hodge), a police officer, and his teen-age daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid), and stays there in a state of panic, unwilling even to set foot outside for fear that Adrian is spying on her and planning to harm her. Adrian’s house is decked out with a panoply of security cameras and other devices (which Cecilia fiddled with before leaving), and she left him because of the devastating methods of surveillance and control—of psychological manipulation—to which he subjected her. Adrian “controlled how I looked,” she tells James and Emily, and also what she wore and ate, and when she went out; then, she adds, he controlled what she said and was trying to control what she thought. What’s more, she says that he wanted her to have his child—and, knowing that, with a child, she’d be essentially tied to him for life, she secretly took birth-control pills.
Cecilia’s fears are, she thinks, finally put to rest, soon thereafter, when Adrian turns up dead at his home; she’s even somewhat moved, if a bit bewildered, when she finds that Adrian has made her one of his heirs. It’s then, however, that strange things start happening. Something goes bump in the night; then there’s a minor mishap in the kitchen, a door that’s ajar and a chain that’s swinging. (These uncanny doings involve some deft effects, such as a puff of chilly breath that appears, on a cold morning, from no discernible mouth.) A blanket is pulled from a bed by invisible hands; an invisible backside indents a seat cushion; belongings that Cecilia put in one place turn up in another. Yet when she describes these phenomena to those closest to her, they react skeptically, thinking that she’s losing her mind.
2020欧洲杯体育在线网址The invisible man—Adrian, she assumes—is gaslighting her in the classic sense of the word; he’s making her doubt her sanity and making those around her doubt it, too. Moreover, the invisible man starts playing wicked tricks on Cecilia’s friends and family, in an effort to drive them away from her and leave her all the more vulnerable to his depredations. Whannell concocts these schemes with clever attentiveness to the role of current technology; cell phones, laptop computers, passwords, and security devices all play crucial and natural roles in the action.
The premise also gives rise to plenty of lower-tech horrors, as when invisible hands wield deadly weapons, creating memorable impressions of knives and guns suspended in the air. At the same time, there are other tricks that are stunning in their imaginative power and yet left utterly undeveloped visually and thematically—including one, involving white paint, that inevitably invokes metaphors of race, which the film both suggests and instantly drops.
The pleasures of “The Invisible Man” are authentic yet sharply mitigated. The plot-centricity of the film is its source of delight but also its basic trouble. Whannell got his start as a screenwriter (of a trio of “Saw” movies and a quartet of “Insidious” ones—he directed the third installment). As the writer and director of “The Invisible Man,” he is, above all, a writer; he comes up with some diabolically clever twists that give rise to some exciting action and some keenly defined moral themes, notably when Cecilia, tired of merely eluding the invisible man, plans to turn the tables on him and exact revenge. Whannell is a great provider of raw material—which, as a director, he transfers to the screen with a textureless efficiency, only rarely reflecting anything like an aesthetic idea.
2020欧洲杯体育在线网址A good screenwriter is more than a plotter of plots; it’s someone who digs into character and offers insight, which is why, often, the roles of screenwriter and director are best divided between two people working collaboratively—the screenwriter offers a framework that a strong director transforms and expands in the creation of the scenes and the images. Several sequences of “The Invisible Man” make clever use of the edges of the frame in relation to surveillance devices; others are springboards and backgrounds for striking effects. But the exposition is seemingly endless, because Whannell’s direction, as well as his construction of scenes, is, for the most part, of the straight-to-cable variety, taking portentousness for suspense and the illustration of facts for drama. The characters don’t exist between their scenes because they’re given little identity, little personality within the scenes. Though the movie rests heavily on its backstory, its protagonist has virtually no substance; though the movie almost entirely takes Cecilia’s point of view, it foregrounds her experience in lieu of her knowledge, her memory, her insight. The void is filled by Moss herself, whose resonant presence and subtle but fervent expressive power take the place of a scripted character; Hodge’s nuanced and vigorous performance fills in for the movie’s virtually nonexistent societal context.
2020欧洲杯体育在线网址For all the ingenious twists that the movie offers, there’s a just-so aspect to “The Invisible Man”; it simultaneously arouses awe at the intricacy of its contrivance and a sense that a flick of a finger could bring it all crashing down. (Though why bother flicking when everyone knows that the point of the trick is the very flimsiness of its intricacy?)
2020欧洲杯体育在线网址For all the authentic thrills that the film eventually delivers, it leaves the feeling of a terrific idea that’s been left on the drawing board. Despite the seriousness of the movie’s themes, it’s a work of fervent showmanship.