No matter what flaws I saw in "The Invisible," I decided I was going to be gentle with my review of this film, which is touted as coming from the producers of "The Sixth Sense." Why? Because it's a rarity. How many intelligent, and (to borrow a word John J. Puccio used in his DVD review) "quiet" thrillers do you know of that have been pitched at teens?
I've tried to come up with one, and memory fails. Maybe that's because when I think of teen thrillers, I think of the schlock that was around when I was asking to borrow the keys to the family car, or much-later date-night fright films about isolated, partying teens who are then beset upon by a deranged killer/slasher/force and eliminated one-by-one until the last one(s) win out or the police finally come. Some of these films were so bad you wished the cops would have shown up when the movie began, busted the kids for underage drinking, and sent all of us home happier and wiser.
So the first thing you notice about this teen thriller is that it actually has an intelligent script, penned by Mick Davis (who co-wrote the Scandinavian version, "Den Osynlige") and Christine Roum ("Law and Order"). You won't find a lot of the "dudes" and bend-over-backwards attempts by adults to capture teen lingo here. And aside from the hip and sensitive English teacher (it's always the English teacher) and a modicum of peer taunting, "The Invisible" stays clear of the usual Clearasil clichés and complications. Instead of so-and-so doesn't like you, we get a plot that involves Nick (Justin Chatwin, "War of the Worlds"), a bright-but-jaded rich kid who lost his father and feels his mother doesn't care about him--only about mapping out his life for him, and it doesn't include going to London to take part in a writing program to further his dream of becoming the next John Steinbeck or John Ashbery.
In this tale of two teens, the other main player is a girl named Annie (Margarita Levieva, "Vanished") who comes from the wrong side of the tracks. Okay, I was wrong about the cliché factor. Here's another one. Both characters are pretty familiar "types," but the writing and performances are understated enough that we feel a certain warmth toward the characters. As Nick does his disaffected artist thing and hangs out with a best friend, Annie has her own crowd to run around with, and it includes a boyfriend with a rap-sheet longer than list of guests who were invited to Nick's lavish graduation party. But they have things in common, and teens will be sure to pick up on it. Both have home lives that seem less than perfect to them, and both have a kind of quiet (there's that word again) resolve.
So here's the plot, in a nutshell: Annie's boyfriend, sweet guy that he is, decides to turn her in for a heist because she won't let him have part of the haul. But because Nick's friend, Pete (Chris Marquette) was peeking around the corner as she was stashing the loot in her locker--I said the writing was intelligent, not these kids--she thinks he's the rat. But when he's roughed up a bit, Pete says that NICK did it, thinking Nick is on a plane for London, so what's the harm? Well, the harm is that Nick never got on that plane, and when Annie and her gang rough Nick up, they do too good of a job and can't find a pulse. They leave him for dead.
But Nick walks among the living, a ghost who's not departed and not alive. In a key scene that helps viewers get a handle on this limbo concept, Nick sees a bird slam against the window and the bird's "alias" or dupe ends up in his hand. As he strokes it, he watches the body of the bird that slammed against the window, it's little chest still heaving, but apparently almost dead. Then, as the bird twitches for the last time, the bird in his hand disappears. "I'M NOT DEAD!" he concludes, and the rest of the film follows his attempts to aid the search for his body and enlist Annie's help, because at some point she becomes the only one who can "hear" him or feel his presence.
Well, I was with the writers on the bird thing, but I have to say that it's a real deal-breaker to have Annie's sense of this character develop over time, and not gradually or with any apparent "triggers" to set it off, either. There are more logic problems as well, and it's the logic problems that keep this film from being a bona fide 7 out of 10. If, for example, Nick is a spirit that nobody can see, and in the classroom people don't seem to even sense any mass, then why is it that as he pursues Annie to a crowded dance club and walks the floor, he has to suddenly push past people and you can see shoulders rubbing, though no one's supposed to see him? Later, as he tries to help the searchers, how is it, when it was established earlier that he can't really do anything physical, that he can move his own body?
Then again, this is aimed at teens, and "teens" and "logic" have never been automatic word associations. I'm betting the target audience and tweens are going to like this, and if that rare thing happens when teens actually sit down and watch a movie with the rest of the family, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that even the adults will find "The Invisible" somewhat appealing. And just so you know, on the Cheese-o-meter it doesn't even come close to the Limburger smell that "Ghost" gives off. No potter's wheel and slow-streaking tears here!
"The Invisible" is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, and looks great in 1080p High Definition. This is set in Seattle, the place that gave birth to Grunge (and an appropriate setting for teen disaffectation), so the atmospheric light is low, and the colors similarly muted. But the level of detail and black levels are superb.
Once again, the English PCM 5.1 uncompressed sound rocks, which the target audience will appreciate when songs by Snow Patrol, Death Cab for Cutie, and Sparta kick in. Other audio options are English, French, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish.
Two commentaries appear on the Blu-ray version, one featuring director David S. Goyer and writer Christine Roum, and the other featuring writer Mick Davis. So do these writers not get along?? Both tracks are decent and cover a good amount of details pertaining to the American version and the way that the film was shot. There aren't as many behind-the-scenes anecdotes as some fans might hope for, but the commentaries are still worth a listen.
Also included are 13 minutes of deleted scenes, with optional commentary, and two music videos ("The Kill," by 30 Seconds to Mars, and "Taking Back Control" by Sparta). I'm not counting the "Movie Showcase" bonus feature, which is "instant access to select movie scenes that showcase the ultimate in Hi Definition picture and sound." Come on people, haven't we moved past that?
As part supernatural thriller and part "West Side Story"/"Romeo & Juliet" tragic tale, "The Invisible" isn't just watchable--it's entertaining. If it weren't for some gigantic lapses in logic, it would be a 7 out of 10. As is, I'd give it no less than a 6 because it's a thriller for teens that doesn't speak to the dumbest common denominator.