a critiQal film review The Invisible (2007)

Plot: High School senior Nick (Chatwin) has a promising life ahead of him - until he is brutally attacked and left for dead. Now in limbo - and invisible to others - his spirit can only watch as his mother (Harden) and the police search for his body - unaware he is only hours away from truly dying.

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With so many summer movies making their way to DVD this past October, we find ourselves still catching up on the October DVD releases. Next on our list: The Invisible, David S. Goyer’s new film starring Justin Chatwin.

We had seen previews back in April when The Invisible hit theaters, and it had intrigued us. A teen lies dying, and he experiences an out-of-body type of experience…only to find out he pretty much has to watch in helplessness as the investigation into his disappearance fails to find his body quickly. With a plot like that, it seemed this might be a haunting drama we would both enjoy.

Justin Chatwin, whose only previous memorable role was starring as a ridiculously anti-parent teen in War of the Worlds (2005), takes center stage in The Invisible – and does a much better job than anyone would have expected after his previous role. Either the script in War of the Worlds (2005) called for such a ridiculous persona, or he has grown tremendously as an actor since then – either way, the viewer wins, as his character in The Invisible will keep the viewer’s rapt attention.

While that previous film pretty much only let him experience a bit of angst and a lot of whining, The Invisible lets him experience the helplessness seen in the preview. However, instead of that helplessness becoming debilitating, he concentrates his efforts on being heard or felt – something which gradually begins to pay off for him. As the viewer takes this journey of discovery with him, they quickly find themselves totally caught up in the film, and waiting breathlessly to see what will happen next.

A lot of that is due to Margarita Levieva in her first starring role. In the beginning of The Invisible, she seems no more than a common thug who, as one character so aptly puts, is “getting out of control”. As the movie progresses, she is revealed to be a much more complex character (albeit one with a back story that’s too familiar), and the viewer will quickly find themselves having to reevaluate her character. That re-evaluation comes about in part thanks to Levieva’s impressive performance, and if this role is any indication, she looks to be an actress to watch in the future.

While David S. Goyer has racked up an impressive amount of writing credits – including Dark City (1998), Blade (1998), Blade II (2002), Blade: Trinity (2004), Batman Begins (2005), plus the upcoming films The Dark Knight (2008) and Speed Racer (2008) (just to mention highlights) – he hasn’t been the one calling the shots for many films. In fact, The Invisible is only his third film…and follows on the heels of Blade: Trinity (2004), so it’s been a couple of years between films for him.

Whether he’s creating a new vision from old material or creating a whole new vision, David S. Goyer has shown he’s getting pretty good at coming up with intriguing plots, and his films tend to get directors that are able to bring his writing to life on-screen. One way he may keep coming up with decent movie plots may be his use of source material. While he’s done a good job translating comic book characters to film (Blade (1998), Batman Begins (2005)), he’s also tackled cartoons (Speed Racer (2008)) and old material like the legend of Dracula (Blade: Trinity (2004)), with only one foray into originality that came out well on film (Dark City (1998)).

With The Invisible, he lets someone else do the writing for him – two new writers use the 2002 Swedish film and their own ideas to create an update on a now classic love story, Ghost. Borrowing heavily from Ghost, The Invisible tosses up the storyline a bit, coming out with something that, while enticing viewers with it’s familiarity, still manages to produce a slice of originality that will keep viewer’s watching – and enjoying.

True, the ending of The Invisible is somewhat of a disappointment after the step-by-step build-up that takes place throughout the film, but, in this case, it’s the journey and not the destination that makes this movie interesting. And the performances by it’s cast make that journey a very enjoyable one.

The big problem of The Invisible – why are the characters doing what they’re doing? Aside from a simple insight into both Chatwin and Levieva’s characters, the viewer has absolutely no idea – and that causes problems when the other, less-explained characters do something totally off-kilter. It makes no sense, and creates a rift between the film and the viewer – one that never truly heals, since those actions are never quite fully explained.

Despite it’s flaws, however, The Invisible is thoroughly enjoyable, and definitely worth checking out on DVD.

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