The voice belongs to Nick Halloway (Chase), a high-flying San Francisco executive who has a sassy personal assistant and whose job involves contracts, dossiers, and liquid lunches. It is during one of these liquid lunches (or rather, a pregame to a liquid dinner) that Nick's friends introduce him to the lovely and intelligent documentary filmmaker Alice Monroe (Hannah). Sparks fly and before they know it, Nick and Alice are making out in the ladies' room. They soon must part ways but make a lunch date for later in the week.
The next morning, a terribly hungover Nick heads to Magnascopic Laboratories for a work meeting. While a Dr. Bernard Wachs gives a complex and heady presentation on the laboratory's work, Nick's condition overwhelms him and he slips out of the lecture hall. A few doors down, Nick distracts a lab tech working in a room crowded with computerized equipment by asking for directions to the nearest restroom. As he points, the lab techs spills his coffee onto his keyboard, sparking a chain reaction in the surrounding equipment as Nick blithely strolls away, oblivious.
As Nick catches a quick forty winks in an executive office, Magnascopic Laboratories enters emergency evacuation mode as systems go haywire throughout the whole building. When the dust settles and the worst of 'the event' appears to have passed, portions of the structure have been rendered invisible, giving the building a Swiss cheese-like appearance. It is at this point that Nick wakes from his nap and realizes, to his utter horror, that he, too, is invisible.
Using a drunk man walking down the street as a sort of puppet, Nick manages to hail a cab and return to San Francisco, where he shelters in his own apartment for the rest of the night. However, the CIA soon catches up to him, and he is forced to flee once again. As he wanders the streets, surrounded by people and yet completely alone, Nick learns that being invisible, far from being a juvenile fantasy involving women's locker rooms, has severe psychological consequences.
Swathed in layers of clothing to establish his physical form, Nick finds the laboratory's expert, Dr. Wachs, taking a stroll in a park. Nick pleads for his assistance in reversing whatever has caused Nick's condition. Unfortunately, the CIA is also at the park, and chase Nick through the park as he sheds his visible clothing one piece at a time until he is, once again, undetectable to the naked human eye.
After a fitful night spent on the pool table at his social club, Nick devises a plan to follow an agent into local CIA offices, where he sits in Jenkins' office quietly eavesdropping for hours. Nick's tedious observation yields nothing of help to him, however, and the crack of a fatigued joint being stretched gives him away. Jenkins attempts to convince Nick to lend his powers as an asset to the CIA, but Nick is able to overpower him and grab his gun. He escapes the CIA building and is, once again, on the run.
He finally screws up the courage to call Alice and ask her to meet him down the beach where he is squatting. There, he finally reveals to her his strange transformation. When she wakes up, because she faints, because of course she faints, because that's what women do in movies, she agrees to help Nick out by smuggling him food and moving money around for him. When George and the rest of their party departs back to the city, Alice opts to stay behind in the beach house, citing the need for further R&R. It's here that she helps Nick devise an appearance, of sorts, through experimentation with wigs, goggles, scarves, and stage makeup.
When the CIA inevitably catches up to them once again, Nick and Alice flee to Salinas, where they plan to catch a train down to Mexico.
Having finished his testimonial, Nick, swathed in facial bandages, calls Jenkins from a payphone near the CIA office and agrees to surrender himself if Alice is set free. Jenkins gladly seizes upon the deal, and Nick watches from across the street as Alice is hustled out of the building, onto the sidewalk, and into a waiting cab. Once the cab is safely down the street, CIA agents tackle Nick at the phone booth.
Except-- it's not Nick at all. It's George, who for whatever crazy reason, went along with Nick's entreaty to disguise himself in facial bandages and call someone from a payphone. Cut back to Alice's taxi, where she and the audience simultaneously learn that the driver is none other than Nick, in disguise as--
The film ends with Nick and Alice living happily in Switzerland. Nick is still invisible, and Alice is pregnant. There are, of course, potential consequences to befall their progeny- imagine running across a toddler with invisible skin, or an invisible head. It's a horrific existence but why would you consider that when there are happy endings to be enjoyed and lifescripts to be fulfilled?
While this is unusual, it's not necessarily inauthentic. The only part of this movie that uses a truly 'impossible' location is the scene were Nick is running from his apartment with the CIA in pursuit. The movie shows him running through his building and a series of backyards to escape out the front lobby of another apartment building on the same block. In the confines of the real world, Nick's apartment building at 901 Powell Street is three blocks away from his egress at 1155 Jones Street, requiring the traversal of not only backyards but three busy intersections.
Nick's apartment building is only a block away at 901 Powell Street, on the corner of Sacramento. The taxi that takes Nick and his drunken assistant home from Magnascopic is shown approaching the building driving west (uphill) on Sacramento until pulling over just shy of the intersection with Powell.
The action returns to this area at the film's climax, as Nick and Alice are trying to escape the CIA in a taxi. The taxi is shown passing 901 Market at the corner of 5th Street (photo #4) before continuing northeast on Market past the Westfield shopping mall (#5). A long shot (#6) from the corner of Market and 4th, looking southwest, shows Hallidie Plaza directly above the Powell Street BART station main entrance. Finally, Nick is shown discarding his taxi driver 'costume' in front of the Flood Building's Market Street entrance (#7).
Authenticity: 5/10- Takes BART every day but has never figured out which door to board at in order to exit directly in front of the escalator at destination station.
Time-stamped Racism: 7/10- not as ostentatious as Nick Nolte's portrayal of Microsoft's Tay Twitterbot in 48 Hours, but sticks out like an ugly, dated, racist, sore thumb nonetheless.
Overall: 5/10- Watch if you want to more fully appreciate John Carpenter's other work, or if you need to maintain your seething resentment of Chevy Chase's smug existence.