If you are susceptible to bedtime spooks, you would do well to avoid watching The Invisible Man at night.
The recent science fiction thriller from director Leigh Whannell, based on the novel by H.G. Wells and film series from the 1930s to 1950s, is loaded with suspense, action, and surprise that will hold many viewers on the edge of their seats. The tight, fast-paced plot, eerie score, and stellar acting together produce a chilling masterpiece about a scientific genius who haunts his ex-girlfriend — without being seen.
But the film’s merits lie not just in its gripping storytelling. It is also an incisive study of good versus evil, in which the villain is wicked through and through and the heroine fights for redemption against all odds.
The film opens on a dark, quiet night in which Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) finally makes her escape from her psychologically manipulative and physically abusive boyfriend, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). We later learn that Cecilia, who describes herself as an ordinary suburban girl, met the wealthy optics scientist at a party. The two started dating, and over time Adrian gradually increased his influence over her life. Eventually, he took complete control over her appearance, whereabouts, words, and even thoughts.
But even after Cecilia’s escape — and Adrian’s subsequently reported suicide — she finds that she is far from rid of him. A series of mysterious events convince her that Adrian is still alive, has found a way to become invisible, and is stalking her.
As the film unfolds, Kass gives an incredible performance of Cecilia’s transformation from a nervous wreck to a resolute warrior fighting for her life and those she loves. Her battle against the invisible man paints a striking image of the human person’s struggle against evil.
The metaphor works in large part because Adrian himself is nothing short of evil personified. Jackson-Cohen’s performance demonstrates the very image of toxic masculinity, which makes him the perfect villain in the #MeToo era. He certainly scores the movie’s progressive points, but it is not so heavy handed as to trumpet an ideological agenda. The structure of his villainy is simple yet potent: devilishly attractive and clever, he presents a facade of comfort, honesty, and affection — all to mask his insidious attempt to dominate and destroy his victims.
Cecilia was once under his grip, but she broke free. Still, her refusal to be part of his twisted life brings its own brutal consequences. She must repeatedly resist and fight his attempts to overpower her, and each trial is more difficult than the last. In one pivotal moment, she is even offered relief, a way out of the torture — if she returns to Adrian. In short, the film is a true illustration of temptation.
The Invisible Man offers not only a thrilling sci-fi story but also a profound message for viewers enduring any kind of moral struggle. It reminds us that amid any temptation — and even after being sucked into a tormenting world of evil — one can always find the strength to escape, to resist, and to triumph. That, in spite of the blood-curdling scenes, makes this film a story of hope.
Sophia Martinson is a writer with a primary focus on cultural and family topics. She lives with her husband in New York City.