invisible man
Universal Pictures

Let's Break Down the Twisty Ending of 'The Invisible Man' You Didn't See Coming

This post contains spoilers for The Invisible Man. 

For the audience -- if not for most of the characters in the movie -- it's pretty clear what's going on throughout Leigh Whannell's new remake of The Invisible Man. Elisabeth Moss' Cecilia is being harassed by her abusive ex who has used his scientific talents to build a suit that renders him invisible. No one believes her, but we, the viewers, know the truth. But even with a narrative as clean cut as that, Whannell opts for a twisty ending that is at times both satisfying and logic-defying. 

Previous adaptations of H.G. Wells' novel focused on, well, the man who was invisible, not the people he attacked. But Whannell's film leaves the actual villain mostly anonymous. He's Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a San Francisco-based tech maven and a leader in the field of "optics," which explains how he's able to make himself vanish into thin air (apparently). He's also an abuser, who has essentially held his girlfriend Cecilia captive. In the opening moments, she flees his isolated compound, aided by her sister, who sets her up to live with James (Aldis Hodge), a friend, and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). Moss's performance anchors the film entirely as she palpably conveys the agony of having your cries go unheard. She veers from terror to rage to disbelief even when Whannell can't strike quite strike the right tone between propulsive action and the seriousness of the subject matter. 

The finale is a good example of the highs and lows of The Invisible Man. It's both excitingly executed and slightly ludicrous. Let's break down how it all plays out. 

invisible man
Universal Pictures

The First Twist

Turns out, there are multiple invisible men. When Cecilia finally takes down her foe, shooting him after he's attacked James and Sydney, she rips off the mask and finds that she hasn't killed Adrian, but his brother Tom (Michael Dorman). Tom's intentions were murky throughout the entire narrative: He often seemed like a cold surrogate for his brother, intent on manipulating Cecilia on Adrian's behalf, but occasionally indicated that he, too, was merely a pawn in his sibling's sadistic games. Just before the climactic fight sequence, Tom visits the psychiatric hospital where Cecilia is being held. She has just been informed that she's pregnant, indicating that Adrian tampered with her birth control, and Tom offers her an ultimatum: This all will go away if she just relinquishes herself to Adrian's complete control. 

While we never find out for sure, Cecilia is confident that Tom wasn't wearing the suit the entire time. At some point, she believes, Tom took over, but Adrian was the one perpetrating and driving the torture she endured, even though he's ultimately found alive tied up in his house. (Cecilia believes this was all part of the ruse, and she's obviously correct.) The scenario is a little too convenient in a sloppy sort of way. The explanation for Tom's appearance is vague, and he's never a well-developed enough character to make the reveal meaningful. 

invisible man
Universal Pictures

The Second Twist

Whannell has one last rug to pull out from under the audience after Tom is unmasked. Cecilia orchestrates a meeting with Adrian, ostensibly to get him to confess to his crimes. But even though she's bugged and James is listening in from a car down the street, that's not her real plan. They have a tense conversation wherein he refuses to budge on his declaration of innocence. After this uncomfortable tête-à-tête, she excuses herself to go to the bathroom. Suddenly, a knife is at Adrian's throat, propelled by an unseen hand. When he lies bleeding, dying on the floor, Cecilia runs out from the bathroom with a perfectly rehearsed scream. She calls the cops, saying a suicide takes place, but she very well knows it was no suicide: Before going she leans down and whispers "surprise," using his own words against him. Where did she get the suit? Well, earlier in the movie, when she was trying to suss out what was going on, she hid one in her old closet, the same place she hid her bag when she planned her initial escape from Adrian. (And, yes, it seems like there were at least two suits… if not more.)  

What's Next? 

At one point in time, the Invisible Man remake was supposed to both star Johnny Depp and be a part of Universal's ill-fated Dark Universe, in which the classic monsters would team up, à la the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the death of the DU, the Depp version was scrapped and the Moss-Whannell team up creeped into existence. But just because there's no Dark Universe any longer doesn't mean that a sequel is impossible. When Cecilia meets up with James outside of Adrian's home, her cop friend notices the suit of invisibility in her bag, but doesn't say anything about it. As she walks away, suit in tow, the camera closes in on her face, a sense of relief washing over it. But what's she going to do with her new possession? Perhaps use it to start a new life as a vigilante taking down more abusive assholes? Maybe this is an origin story after all. Sounds good, as long as The Invisible Woman or whatever it would be called doesn't keep Moss invisible for too long.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.