The Invisible (2007) / Thriller-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, sensuality and language
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast: Justin Chatwin, Margarita Levieva, Marcia Gay Harden, Chris Marquette, Alex O'Loughlin, Callum Keith Rennie, Michelle Harrison, Ryan Kennedy, Andrew Francis, Alex Ferris, Tania Saulnier
Director: David S. Goyer
Screenplay: Mick Davis, Christine Roum (based on the novel, "Den Osynlige", by Mats Wahl)
Nick Powell (Chatwin, War of the Worlds) is a Seattle high school student with promising plans for the future, securing a ticket to London to continue his education, unbeknownst to his overbearing, but clueless mother. When a small gang of school bad-asses, led by troubled female student, Annie (Levieva, "Vanished"), ends up severely beating Nick for supposedly snitching on them for a jewel heist, they dispose of his body, thinking him dead. Nick isn't dead, at least not yet, but rather, he is able to exist outside of his body as an invisible representation. He monitors the activities of his classmates, mother (Harden, The Dead Girl), and would-be killers, trying to effect change and lead someone to find his dying body before he expires, but no one can see or hear him. With only days to live, Nick feels virtually helpless, but by watching those he knew closely without his physical presence, he learns that there is more to each of them than he ever realized.
The Invisible is a remake of the 2002 Swedish movie, Den Osynlige (also released as The Invisible in English-speaking countries), which was based on the book by Mats Wahl. Though it follows the film relatively closely in the main plot, the fates of main characters in the film do vastly differ in this American treatment -- typical for Hollywood to curb serious endings in favor of those that won't disturb your average movieplex viewer looking for no-brain escapism. Without the philosophical nature of the original story, what's left feels more like the teen version of Ghost, without the deeper romantic elements (though it does dabble a bit).
Although director David S. Goyer (Blade: Trinity, ZigZag) tries to imbue the tone of his film into the roots of teenage angst, namely, the feelings of helplessness, isolation, and voicelessness that are sometimes overwhelming to many youths, he is never able to make the connection between the events of the film and these deeper elements successfully. Part of the problem is that Goyer isn't exactly getting much depth from the fairly glossy screenplay (co-written by Den Oyslinge's original screenwriter, Mick David), which leaves him with trying to effect mood almost solely through stylish camerawork and a seemingly nonstop barrage of downbeat tunes on the popular soundtrack. The characters in particular aren't painted very well, especially that of Annie, who, upon very first sight of her perpetual beanie-wearing mug and rather petite body, seems exceedingly farfetched in buying as the school bully whose anger is derived from the hard knocks of a rough-and-tumble childhood. Family homes are equally stagnant, with weird artwork -- Nick's bedroom in particular is more of a conceptual movie treatment (esoteric posters and few personal effects that denote real personality) than an honest depiction of a regular teenage pad.
Savvy filmgoers will probably have no trouble seeing where the film is headed long before it gets to its long-winded and rather empty ending. Goyer makes a fatal error in thinking that these shallow and unbelievable characters are worthy vessels for an emotional ending, and as they all fight for their lives, and make large sacrifices, we feel nothing at all, just waiting to see the events unfold in the manner we predicted from the halfway point. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the film's ending, at least from my point of view, is that it essentially puts the protagonist, Nick, in the position of potentially directly causing the death of another character, who definitely is in need of immediate medical care, in order to try to save himself. It's hard to find a great deal of feeling for a self-absorbed egotist who suddenly finds himself feeling for his assailant once he discovers she's actually kinda cute when she lets her hair down.
The Invisible lives up to its name by being just like the typical teenagers found in the film -- moody and angst-ridden, futilely crying out to be noticed and thought of as an entity of value. It screams, it flails, it tries to gain attention by any means it can, but the reaction of most moviegoers will be unblinking silence. It's an intriguing enough idea to think there is the possibility of an erudite experience, if only it weren't trying so hard to placate the teen audience that the producers must think are too shallow to understand their own feelings of anguish, turmoil, and growing pains. Being spiritual doesn't always have to mean lacking in substance, does it?
©2007 Vince Leo