The original Invisible Man film, made in 1933 and adapted from H.G. Wells' science fiction classic, was a marvel of visual effects, a sensation that resulted in numerous spin-offs, sequels and retellings, solidifying the character as one of the most instantly recognisable of movie monsters. This year's version of The Invisible Man (dir. Leigh Whannell, rating TBC) arrives on screen having undergone a range of changes itself. It was initially conceived as part of a wider "cinematic universe" of Universal monsters that included The Mummy and Dracula (the ill-fated Dark Universe). And yet, this Invisible Man is entirely stand-alone - a lean, nerve-shredding thriller that builds its way outward from a central, incredibly clever conceit - the film is not focused so much on the Invisible Man himself as on his victim, his abused partner Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss). Yes, The Invisible Man is, essentially, an extended metaphor for the clinging trauma of physical and emotional abuse, and an exploration of gaslighting on an unprecedented level - to largely good results. After Cecilia escapes her husband - a leading optometrical scientist - she is informed he has committed suicide. However, as strange occurrences begin to pile up, she suspects her husband has not left the physical realm - rather, he has found a way to conceal himself from it.
Director Leigh Whannell made something of a splash with his violent, inventive Upgrade and he continues to flex his muscular ability with thrillers here, employing silence and negative space within a camera frame to send paranoiac chills down audience's spines frequently, almost unrelentingly. The film is cold, clinical, largely humourless (the moments where it tries to inject humour fall largely flat) and potentially triggering to some that may recognise the never-ending fear and anxiety Moss conveys at being stalked by her abuser. As our heroine, Moss is predictably excellent, often performing against empty backdrops and really selling the escalating panic and hopelessness of her character. It's a bleak, difficult thing to watch - there is little in the way of catharsis, and its resolution is sure to be a litmus test for viewers' attitudes toward certain societal issues in the way last year's Parasite has proven to be. That The Invisible Man manages to truly be about something meaningful to modern society proves the necessity of retelling this legendary story, despite the film makers occasionally overindulging in the process. Rating: Four stars.
The Current War
(dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, M) has also endured quite the lengthy road to arrive at our shores - originally produced way back in 2016 and shelved following the Harvey Weinstein scandal (whose company backed the film). Reshoots and rights dramas now in the rearview, the film that has released - an exploration of the tensions that arose in the scientific community between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch, who can do this sort of thing in his sleep) and his competitors following the invention of the light-bulb - is a stylistically admirable but muddily plotted attempt. A jaw-droppingly qualified cast (including Michael Shannon, Katherine Waterston, Nicholas Hoult and Tom Holland) play the various personalities that populate this war - Hoult's Nikola Tesla barely registers, as do Waterston and Holland's characters. Shannon gets away the best - as Edison's primary competitor, George Westinghouse, he's a craggy, grumpy delight. Rejon does his best to liven up the material, employing all manner of stylistic flourishes - some delightful, some distracting, but can't overcome a script trying to do too much at once and not achieving much of any of it. There's pleasure to be found here, but not enough of a spark.
Rating: Three stars.