QUADRIVIUM

Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

Smash Cut – The Invisible

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While The Invisible makes honest use of the old Shakespearean thread of treachery and cowardice to spin its yarn, its sophisticated aspirations tumble into an underwhelming, ambling suspense tale of two fractured teens and their desperate need of mending.

Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin, War of the Worlds) writes essays for money, selling them off to the lazy and desperate teens who stalk the halls of his high school. He carries a plane ticket that will take him to a writer’s program at the Royal Academy in London, a decision his widowed and emotionless mother (Marcia Gay Harden) stiffly discourages.

Annie Newton (Margarita Levieva) lives in a splintered home run by apathetic parents. Her efforts to cope take her out to the streets at night to help her ex-con boyfriend Marcus steal cars. She also peddles cheap cell phones, a sticky temptation to Nick’s friend Pete. When Pete fails to pay up, Annie and her goons threaten violence. Nick tries to buy her off. “You are so broken,” he whispers into her ear, drawing out her defensive wrath.

A jilted Marcus’s call to police and Pete’s lack of a spine propel Annie toward her predictably disastrous confrontation with Nick that leaves the hopeful young writer lying dead in the woods. Or so Annie believes. Annie and her goons ditch his body and scatter. The next morning, Nick emerges from the woods, returns to school, and finds that no one can see or him. Trapped in an ethereal netherworld, he has finally earned the film’s moniker.

As the supernatural elements develop throughout the second act, the story starts to unravel under the strain of thoughtless plot devices, which unfortunately bury the stronger aspects of an otherwise mundane ghost story. Various awkward subplots, such as Annie’s past relationship with the officer investigating Nick’s disappearance, seem planted merely for drama’s sake, and never see any real development.

Many of the film’s clever attempts to evoke the eerie netherworld border on the ridiculous. We learn that the ghostly Nick can seem to interact with the physical world only to realize upon second glance that his actions have no effect. It’s a trope the filmmakers keep going back to, effectively drowning the initial shock.

Nick eventually sticks to following Annie around: watching her at home while she endures the paper-thin complexity of her parents, watching as she dotes on her little brother. As the police close in, Annie grows desperate and Nick inches closer to doom. Inexorably, Annie hears his voice, thrusting our two broken teens on a shallow journey of discovery and salvation.

Some moments offer glimmers of a more penetrating narrative. One surprisingly tasteful scene that follows Annie into a shower paints a figurative look at her desire to purge herself of her wrongs. Still unseen, Nick reaches a personal zenith as he watches his ice-hard mother melts into painful despair. His realization that she can feel moves him to start picking up his own broken pieces.

Director David S. Goyer (Blade: Trinity), familiar with moody plotlines, appears capable enough to coax adequate performances from his cast to at least project hints of believability. His strengths certainly help the film recover from some of its flaws. But only a little.

The film commits its most grievous sin during the final payoff. There’s no setup, so the climax appears out of nowhere, perhaps assuming the audience will just buy it after having followed the film’s vague humanistic meanderings thus far. A more refined script might have offered a more compelling journey to build toward that ending, instead of contriving one out of thin air.

The DVD’s special features include director and writer commentary, a pair of music videos, and a collection of 11 deleted scenes that would have offered still more needless dangling subplots that fail to offer any greater insight to the overall story.

(edited by Sam Gaines)

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Written by taj

November 2, 2007 at 7:00 am

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