Why would anyone reboot The Invisible Man (M18, 125 minutes, opens today, 4 stars)?
The main appeal of the films, of which more than a dozen have been made including the pulpy Hollow Man (2000, starring Kevin Bacon), lies in cutting-edge special effects.
Today, when it is difficult to impress audiences with floaty objects and self-pouring wine bottles, why bother?
In this interpretation of H.G. Wells’ novel of the same name, Australian writer-director Leigh Whannell beds the story in a thoroughly gripping domestic thriller. The rest, including Elizabeth Moss’ fine acting and, yes, high-quality special effects, is a bonus.
Cecilia Kass (Moss) is a woman escaping the clutches of violent boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a scientist. Her nightmare is just beginning, however, when things happen that only she sees and others cannot.
Whannell specialises in thrillers driven by mystery, violence and strongly rendered villains – traits seen in his 2004 breakthrough horror work Saw, written by Whannell and directed by James Wan.
In 2018’s underrated Upgrade, about a man whose bionic implants take over his life, Whannell adds “hard” science fiction of which plenty is seen in the new movie.
But these elements come second to the tension created as Cecilia, under assault from unseen hands, is glibly given the brush-off by friends and family who tell her she is suffering from post-traumatic stress or over-medicating or some other regurgitated platitude picked up from a daytime talk show. It all feels relatable, contemporary and enraging.
Like the idea of an invisible man, Earth’s most abundant substance has been the subject of many filmed works. Aquarela (PG, 90 minutes, opens today, 3.5 stars) is a documentary that tries, without narration, to show water’s many forms and how human lives are shaped by it.
Humans, whether they are reckless Russians in sport utility vehicles hurtling across the thinning ice of Lake Baikal or boaters veering dangerously close to Greenland’s iceberg-shedding glaciers, are shown to be tiny and transient.
Russian film-maker Victor Kossakovsky’s work is, appropriately, an immersive experience showing water to be vast, timeless and implacable. It is all undercut with a note of sadness over how human activity is changing its behaviour.
Films opening this week but not reviewed include the crime action-comedy The Gentlemen (M18, 113 minutes, opens today), starring Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding and Michelle Dockery. Guy Ritchie (the Disney fantasy Aladdin, 2019; caper movie Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, 1998) writes and directs this story about an American marijuana kingpin Mickey (McConaughey), whose English business empire comes under attack from various factions, including Chinese gangsters.
South Korean spy thriller The Man Standing Next (NC16, 90 minutes, opens today) is based on a true story from the 1970s. Intelligence director Kim (Lee Byung-hun) is embroiled in a scheme that reaches into the highest levels of the South Korean government.
In horror work The Closet (NC16, 98 minutes, opens today), also from South Korea, Sang Won (Ha Jung-woo) is an architect with a missing daughter. An exorcist (Kim Nam-gil) appears, offering help from the supernatural realm.