Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) is a woman trapped in a marriage to Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who is physically and mentally abusive. She escapes with the help of her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer), taking shelter with new friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his teen daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). However, Adrian is a scientist who’s as technically competent as he is sociopathic and manipulative, and with a fancy invisibility suit he fakes his own death and comes after Cecilia.
This movie originally started out as part of a plan to reboot many of the Universal Studios monster movies from the 1930s-1950s. Remember, we were gonna have Javier Bardem and Angelina Jolie in Bill Condon’s Bride of Frankenstein? (If you don’t remember, you can read more about that here.) Thanks to the across-the-board loathing of and low ticket sales for The Mummy, Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man was scrapped, the director was scrapped, and the producers were scrapped. So what we ended up with was a Blumhouse-produced, Leigh Whannell-written-and-directed, Elisabeth Moss-led film. Which is most likely better.
The movie builds tension expertly from the very beginning (then kinda slows down in the middle–but without being boring–and picks up again towards the end). It opens with Cecilia fleeing from Adrian in the middle of the night. If you know a single thing about the plot then you know of course she gets away, but it’s still damn suspenseful. Adrian’s presence is established gradually but creepily. He starts with stunts to undermine Cecilia’s confidence like sabotaging a job interview, eventually tricking her support system into backing off and isolating her. There’s a marvelous scene when Cecilia is cooking bacon and leaves the kitchen for a moment. The shot is wide enough to show the whole room and doesn’t cut away; we’re meant to be anxiously watching for Adrian to do something, somewhere, and it’s really effective. The filmmakers never stoop to cheap jump scares. There is one scene when Cecilia slowly wanders around investigating a strange noise like a slasher movie final girl, but it makes sense for her to be compelled to establish that her surroundings are safe.
The performances are amazing. In a scene taking place shortly after Cecilia moves in to James’s house, he has to coach her to go outside just long enough to get the mail. She leaves, shoulders hunched, taking small brave steps to the mailbox. Then a dude jogs by and throws her off, and she runs back in. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. But when Cecilia’s had enough of Adrian’s shenanigans, watch out!
Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Adrian is also not to be missed. Adrian has no dialogue until over an hour into the movie, and you barely see him (’cause Whannell is smart about not overplaying his monster), but he’s really scary. In one of the few scenes when he we see his face, he has this terrifying blank stare.
Aldis Hodge has less to do than his co-stars, but he shines as the kind and valiant James.
Overall, I enjoyed it, as much as one can enjoy a movie with such an explosive subject matter. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something dark, well-crafted, and compelling.