Whatever David S. Goyer’s The Invisible is, it is not a horror picture—though it was marketed as one. Neither is it a mystery, despite its tagline, “How do you solve a murder when the victim is you?” (At no point is there any question of who did what to whom.) The film is much more along the lines of a romantic fantasy. “But,” you may be thinking, “what about the scene in the trailer with the creepy old blind guy in the hospital, the one where the hero gets told, ‘If you can solve the mystery of your own death, you stand a chance of going back?’” Ah, yes, what about that scene? Well, it’s not in the film. Moreover, there’s no place in the film where such a scene would fit. I’m told that portions of the film were reshot, so it’s likely that the sequence in question (and whatever led up to it) was replaced (probably with the scene with the dying bird, which conveys much the same information) after a rough cut was assembled. Regardless of what actually happened, the “creepy old blind guy” scene departed the film and took whatever shaky claim to the horror genre The Invisible had with it. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a romantic fantasy—try Mitchell Leisen’s Death Takes a Holiday (1934) or William Dieterle’s Portrait of Jennie (1948)—but it’s probably not the wisest of moves to try to sell one to a teenage audience as a horror movie.
It also might have been a good idea to create a story where the leads are just a tad more likeable than they are here. The screenplay by Mick Davis (Modigliani) and Christine Roum (Bodyguard II)—based on the Swedish novel and film Den Osynlige—may be less at fault than the casting and direction. The overall idea of a high school kid, Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin, War of the Worlds), hovering between life and death after being beaten up by a gang of teen thugs and left for dead in a manhole is OK. The central problem of him needing to lead someone to his physical self before he dies and completely passes from this realm is interesting (though it quickly becomes a little one-note). Still, it’s not like the screenplay is without its problems. Are we really supposed to believe that a smart cell-phone-packing high school senior is so dim that he’s going to surreptitiously purchase an airline ticket to London, and leave his home phone number as the means to contact him? Is it even briefly reasonable that a known troubled teenager caught with several thousand dollars worth of stolen jewelry is going to be released on her recognizance while awaiting arraignment? Just exactly how much physical exertion are we to accept as possible from someone with a large-caliber bullet—fired at fairly close range—lodged in her stomach? Yet, these silly plot contrivances wouldn’t necessarily sink the film if only the characters were played with some degree of likeability and believability.
The casting of 24-year-old Justin Chatwin as high school kid Nick Powell doesn’t work. It’s not just the age thing. It’s also the fact that Chatwin plays Nick in such a supercilious manner that you’re hard-pressed to care which side of limbo he ends up on. Margarita Levieva (TV’s Vanished) fares a little better as Annie, the troubled teen on the path to a life of crime, but the character is largely reduced to a series of tough-girl posturings. Even the usually estimable Marcia Gay Harden as Nick’s mother comes across as shrill and false.
Director David S. Goyer managed to make Blade Trinity (2004) cheesy fun, but evidences no sense of humor at all with this film. (Perhaps he’s listened too much to the praise heaped on his work with Christopher Nolan on their dour Batman Begins (2005) screenplay.) Worse, he has a penchant for evoking all the wrong movies. Did he really mean to stage a search through the woods that recalls the one in Joe Roth’s Freedomland (2006)? Would anyone intentionally recall that film? In the end, there are some intriguing ideas running around in The Invisible, but they never amount to much. Rated PG-13 for violence, criminality, sensuality and language—all involving teens.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke