Movie Review – Hollow Man (2000)

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Stars: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Greg Grunberg, Kim Dickens, Frank Chase, Janice Walton

Sebastian (Bacon) is a genius scientist leading a team to create an invisibility serum for the military. They have tested it on animals but Sebastian wants to be the first human subject, yet after the experiment the team quickly realize that it has begun to warp his mind.

I loved the effects in the movie. Seeing the different layers of the body was visually interesting and I liked how they had to use steam, water, and other fluids to try and figure out where Sebastian was hiding. However, I can’t help but feel that Hollow Man is a hollow film.

It’s not particularly scary, there aren’t that many thrills or scares, it’s not too dramatic and it doesn’t offer any deep philosophical commentary on the nature of identity or personhood. On some occasions Sebastian alluded to the freedom he felt from being invisible and how easy it was to do these things because he didn’t have to look at himself in a mirror, but it was never developed or explored. What little drama there is comes in the form of relationships because Sebastian still wants his ex, Linda (Shue), who is now involved with Matthew (Brolin). But this is not compelling stuff and I was hoping for a more psychological terror.

It doesn’t come though because from the start Sebastian is shown to be a selfish, arrogant jerk and his descent into madness isn’t a drastic one so the whole progression of the story feels very basic. Also, apparently the only things they could have Sebastian do is molest women. It was really awful, and there’s a rape victim that is just glossed over and never mentioned in the film again.

Usually Verhoeven is able to supplement the visual effects with a story filled with symbolism and satire but that’s missing from Hollow Man and while it’s okay to watch it’s not captivating or thrilling. There’s also a problem with the ending as well, as I’m not sure that a human can withstand as much pain as Sebastian must have suffered. The best parts of the film were when Sebastian managed to escape from the facility and I would have liked to see more of this, and how being invisible made him re-evaluate himself. After all, he was a very extroverted character who wanted to be the centre of attention so there was potential for an interesting contrast and make him a deeper character rather than just a creepy jerk. Also, one bit at the end really annoyed me. Sebastian, the invisible man, is on the loose and yet everyone takes ages to put on their thermal-imaging goggles!

Cool visuals, decent performances, wasted potential for a story.

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