No doubt, I could go on from now until tomorrow telling you everything that's wrong with "The Invisible," but in the end it's one's gut feeling that counts, and I liked this 2007 release. It's a ghost story with no scares. A thriller with no thrills. And a romance with no romance. And yet... When it was over, I felt I had gotten to know the characters and sensed their pain. Sentimental? Yes, with an ending that moved me as much anything I've seen in a long time. Not a great film, to be sure, but one I was pleased with having watched.
While Director David S. Goyer has made films like "ZigZag" and "Blade: Trinity," he's mostly known as a screenwriter of such things as "Blade," "Dark City," and "Batman Begins," and it's the dark tone of these movies that shows up in "The Invisible." Writers Mick Davis and Christine Roum based their script on the novel "Den Osynlige" by Mats Wahl and on the Swedish film of the same name. Then Goyer added his own noirish touches, making a film so heavyhearted and melancholic, it will not appeal to everyone.
The movie's subject is death; although, to be fair, the movie does more than explore the tragedy of dying. It's far more introspective than that and delves into the subject of death in life, being "invisible" while still alive. In that sense, the film is more a symbolic parable than a straightforward ghost story, which audiences probably won't expect. So, give Goyer credit for doing what he wanted rather than what Hollywood formula dictates. Whether Goyer succeeded or not, you'll have to decide for yourself. For me, a lot of it worked.
The film centers on two high school seniors from very different backgrounds. The first character is a young man, Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin), a child of privilege, whose father has died; he is being raised by a cold, possessive, perfectionist mother (Marcia Gay Harden), who has the boy's life mapped out for him. The second character is a young woman, Annie Newton (Margarita Levieva), a child of misfortune, whose mother has died; she is being raised by a cold, indifferent father.
Nick is outwardly a model student, but inwardly he resents the world his mother has outlined for him, and in rebellion sells essays to other students to raise enough money to leave home as soon as he graduates. Annie is a tough delinquent who steals cars and jewelry and spends her nights with a hoodlum named Marcus (Alex O'Loughlin). Through a tragic mistake, their lives cross, and Annie murders Nick. Almost.
Annie and several of her hooligan friends attempt to rough up Nick for what they think is his involvement in turning Annie in to the police for a jewel robbery, but the beating goes awry and they wind up thinking they've killed Nick. They dump his body down a drainage hole in the forest and leave him for dead. But Nick isn't dead, and he finds his spirit suddenly lingering somewhere between life and death. If his body dies, his spirit will die, too. So he needs to find his body and, more important, find someone who will find his body and help him survive. Unfortunately, in his spiritual state, he cannot easily communicate with the living.
OK, you already see elements of "Ghost" in the story. But not really, because director Goyer is more concerned with the inner lives of the near-murderer and her victim. Since Nick knows who tried to kill him, he seeks out Annie to do what he can to get her to confess to the crime and lead the police to his body. In Nick's observing her, though, Nick learns that he and Annie have more in common than first meets the eye.
"The Invisible" is a quietly sad and lonely film about quietly sad and lonely people. At first, we see only the good in Nick and only the bad in Annie. As things go along, we begin to feel less concerned about Nick and more sympathetic toward Annie. Meanwhile, even Nick, who must rely on his murderer to save his life, begins to understand Annie and himself better.
The story moves slowly, the director preferring to establish a melancholy, somewhat enigmatic mood rather than hit us over the head with rousing action. For audiences used to nonstop movement and whizbang special effects, this film will seem like a long haul. After Nick's disappearance, a charismatic detective (Callum Keith Rennie) enters the picture, but after a few scenes, he disappears from the narrative. Likewise, we initially see much of Nick's best friend, Pete, (Chris Marquette), but then Pete finds less and less screen time as well. What it boils down to is a picture about Nick and Annie, and perhaps it would have been better for the filmmakers to have left out the peripheral characters altogether.
In a perverse way, "The Invisible" plays like a kind of fantasy version of "The Graduate," updated for the twenty-first century. It's about a sense of emptiness and alienation in a hostile, alien world, highlighted by the director's constant crosscutting from sterile city life to misty forests, both of them devoid of any serious interrelationships.
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately...and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived," wrote Henry David Thoreau. I suspect the filmmakers were attempting to convey a similar idea. The movie is about redemption, about learning to live, and about doing that "one good thing" that can turn one's life around.
Personally, I'd rather watch a film that's about something, anything, out of the ordinary, something that attempts to make me think and feel, even it fails, than to watch a film that merely goes through the same motions as every other film that came before it. "The Invisible" makes that sort of attempt, and although it doesn't fully succeed, it kept me interested far more than most films I've watched this year.
Viewers may disagree over the film's content and worth, but they can surely have few qualms about its DVD image quality. Buena Vista's high-bit-rate, anamorphic reproduction makes this 2.35:1 ratio transfer sparkle. Colors are deep and natural, with truly intense black levels. It's really too bad that so many LCD TVs don't properly display inky blacks because the black levels in this picture need such displays for a viewer to appreciate them. Skin tones are a trifle glassy and dark but still show up as fairly realistic, and overall detailing is excellent. In the end, you get near-flawless standard-definition video quality, and that counts for a lot in one's enjoyment of any film.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio doesn't quite match the high standards set by the video, but it's close. There is a clear, clean midrange; a deep, well-defined bass; a good stereo spread across the front speakers; and a decent, if not exceptional, amount of activity in the surrounds, mainly in terms of musical ambience.
How much you will like the extras depends upon how much you like audio commentaries, because this one's got two of them. The first is with director David S. Goyer and writer Christine Roum and the second is with writer Mick Davis. The first commentary is what we usually hear, but the second, with Davis, is a bit unusual. Not only did Davis write "The Invisible," he also wrote the Swedish version of the film, and he says this is the first time he's seen the American version, so it's new to him, too. He provides a unique experience, although he is a rather reserved fellow and goes silent for long stretches. I also wonder if it was the filmmakers' frustration with audiences not understanding their picture that prompted them to do two separate commentaries. Who knows. Next up is a series of eleven deleted scenes in anamorphic widescreen, totalling over thirteen minutes, with optional commentary by director Goyer and writer Roum; and that's followed by two music videos, "The Kill" with Thirty Seconds to Mars and "Taking Back Control" with Sparta.
The extras conclude with sixteen scene selections and a chapter insert; Sneak Peeks at seven other Buena Vista products; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; French and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
Although I have not seen the Swedish film upon which the filmmakers based "The Invisible" and, therefore, cannot make comparisons, I do know that David S. Goyer has made a decent film, one that simultaneously explores the human psyche while keeping its feet planted in the paranormal. Viewers are more likely to compare it to "The Sixth Sense," not coincidentally also from Hollywood Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment, but they won't find the same type of glossy entertainment here. "The Invisible" is not a film that every viewer will want to see, but give Goyer credit for doing it his way and at least partially succeeding.