Bringing new life to a classic sci-fi property is not easy to do — as several recent, infamous blockbuster flops (like 2017’s The Mummy and 2014’s Dracula Untold) have shown.
But that’s exactly what writer-director Leigh Whannell managed to do with his 2020 film.
Whannell’s intense and thrilling reimagining of the classic H.G. Wells novel received widespread critical acclaim when it premiered in theaters early last year, and justifiably so. Featuring a stunning, versatile lead performance from Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man is the kind of entertaining adaptation of a classic that various Hollywood studios have repeatedly tried and failed to produce in recent decades.
Indeed, in a sea of misguided ideas and sunken would-be-franchises, The Invisible Man is the rare, modern-day reimagining that not only manages to stay afloat but also carves a path of its own in a way impossible to forget.
The Invisible Man is streaming now on HBO Max. Here’s why you need to add it to your watchlist this October.
The opening 10 minutes of The Invisible Man are nothing short of extraordinary. Largely wordless, they immediately place you in the shoes of protagonist Cecilia (Moss), as she silently tries to escape her abusive billionaire boyfriend’s seaside compound in the dead of night. It’s a stunningly well-crafted sequence — one charged with a mixture of tension and dread that doesn’t fade until precisely when Whannell wants it to.
By opening with Cecilia’s escape, Whannell manages to effectively ground us inside her perspective. We experience the same anxiety and paranoia that Cecilia does, and we’re immediately in her corner. As Cecilia finds freedom, only to have it ripped away from her when her abusive ex (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, largely unseen) begins stalking and tormenting her. Or is he?
And that’s where part of the brilliance of Whannell’s take on The Invisible Man lies — he isn’t interested in the plight or misadventures of the story’s titular figure, but in the woman that such a mad scientist might terrorize with his technology. A savvy, all-important shift in perspective from the invisible man to his victim, this decision makes the film not only feel refreshingly modern but also emotionally authentic.
Using Cecilia’s very relatable fears as the film’s emotional core, Whannell pumps The Invisible Man full of the most nail-bitingly intense, adrenaline-pumping sequences seen in any mainstream Hollywood thriller from these past few years.
That includes the film’s previously mentioned, truly unforgettable opening, but also a home-invasion sequence that pits Cecilia against her unseen tormentor and that features one of the best jump-scares in recent memory. In recommending the film, one should also tease a shocking dinner-table scene and hospital shootout that’s thrillingly well-directed in a way that makes its bursts of hyper-kinetic action all the more shockingly brutal.
Ultimately, the same euphoric praise can be lauded upon The Invisible Man as a whole. It’s a film that has no right to be so fiendishly well-constructed and aggressively entertaining — it sounds ironic given the subject of the story, but this is one sci-fi thriller you need to see, as soon as you possibly can.
The Invisible Man is streaming now on HBO Max.