The trailers for The Invisible ask, "How do you solve a murder when the victim is you?" This indeed poses several mysteries, but not the ones the trailer-makers have in mind. First, there's the question of whether the question is grammatically correct (the answer: maybe, but it sure sounds awkward). Then there's the mystery not of how to solve said murder, but where exactly the difficulty lies when you is -- er, are that murder victim. High-school senior Nick Powell, this film's victim, pretty much "solves" his murder while he's being killed (or near-killed); he recognizes and even converses with his assailants. Case closed.
Except that he's dead, of course, but assuming, as The Invisible does, the existence of a rather flexible netherworld between living and death, filling in further details isn't a problem either. When Nick wakes up as a sort of half-ghost, traveling through the land of the living without the ability to be seen or heard while his body lies on the brink of death, his detective skills need only to consist of following the murderers around, overhearing their motivations. Article continues below
To its credit, The Invisible dispenses with the trailer's bogus notions of mystery early on. Unfortunately, it spends a great deal of time dwelling on an additional challenge: How Nick can convey the mystery's solution (and the fact that his body awaits discovery and urgent medical treatment) to a living world that is blind to his presence.
Actually, it's not this barrier that's the problem, but rather the film's repeated dramatizations of Nick's plight. We are treated to countless scenes where he screams at the people around him, breaks stuff, and generally makes a noisy struggle to be heard, before whoosh -- the camera pans back to Nick, revealing that everything is still intact; he's still a ghost and can't manipulate the world around him. You don't blame him for trying, but you do kinda blame the filmmakers for showing us what seems like every one of those tries.
Other than these constant demonstrations, The Invisible's take on its supernatural conceit -- low-key, not heavily explained -- is refreshing. Director David S. Goyer
is less interested in ghostly machinations than how Nick is able to use them to investigate and maybe empathize with those responsible for this death, particularly a troubled classmate named Annie (Margarita Levieva
). Nick doesn't have a loyal posse of crime-solving friends or a plucky girlfriend to commune with, just a lone best friend (Chris Marquette
) whose spinelessness is frustrating but also probably realistic.
This is one of those movies where teenagers essentially live in their own adult world already, on a thin line between grown-up weariness and youthful angst. The token adult in the room is Marcia Gay Harden
as Nick's proper, controlling mother. It's the latest in Harden's long line of prim, uptight types; she typically infuses these parts not with depth, but cartoonish overacting that suggests an unfunny version of fellow Oscar-winner Dianne Wiest. To be fair, none of the performances are exactly electric, though newcomer Levieva has some quiet, heartbreaking moments.
This is Goyer's second film as a director; he wrote all of the Blade movies and directed the last one, and had a hand in the screenplays for Dark City and Batman Begins, among others. He's not credited as a writer for The Invisible, and maybe the script could've benefited from a hint of his pulpier sensibilities. The film is stylishly shot and halfway intelligent, but after a certain point it feels less thrilling than inevitable. At its best, The Invisible is a supernatural thriller that plays like a legitimate drama. Other times, though, when the soundtrack is cranked (even blasting some good songs) and the emotions bleed onto the characters' sleeves, the dramatics are more of the teenage, CW-approved variety.