The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man ★★★½

In early 1990, Julia Roberts shot into the stratosphere of superstardom like no other actress in history with "Pretty Woman." Desired and envied, she was a superstar throughout the rest of the year even though there had yet to be a star vehicle follow-up... not until the following February there came the needless rush job "Sleeping With the Enemy" where she starred as the fraught wife who perhaps was once pretty but now beaten down, who plots a getaway from her kept away beachside manor and her cruel husband; a decent beginning but after her makeover and relocation the rest of the movie was a witless potboiler.

Writer/director Leigh Whannell seems to have air-lifted the beginning of that Julia movie while re-working H.G. Wells' famous novel that might be perceived as the original boogeyman story, for The Invisible Man, and there might be a gadget idea borrowed from Ari Folman's "The Congress" (2013), too.

Whannell doesn't exactly find a key for realism, but his film is very much a class act in stylized thriller filmmaking — it's like the breathless suspense of Polanski's "Repulsion" (1965) meets the Bay Area swank yellow lighting of Fincher.

Elizabeth Moss, in a great bout of physical acting, is the abused wife who seemingly has gotten rid of her raging bi-polar husband after he's pronounced dead, and the news is sweetened when she will be a heir. Yet even with that great news she's never comfortable in her own skin. You can't teach intense facial tic acting; Moss just has it. Most other actresses don't have what she has, and Julia certainly didn't.

Soon enough, bad filthy rich hubby starts giving the untamed wife a real spook show seemingly from beyond the dead, but is he? Rustling objects or planting omens on the perimeter, there's enough mess-with-you activity that an alternate title could have been The Invisible Fucker.

Whannell's third act plotting is maybe more complicated than it needed to be (the 1933 Wells adaptation is one of the seminal black & white horrors of its time that has endured because it didn't overstay its welcome), but some of the filmmaking here really put me in a tailspin with the whiplash cam, as previously deployed for Whannell's "Upgrade." My heart chilled, not just once, but multiple times.

This The Invisible Man will probably be not one I see multiple times, but at this moment, this was a real fun time weekend movie that I'll look back on fondly as something that put a mean handle on me with its cruel wit. In a breathless way, thrilled I certainly was.

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