The Invisible Guest

The Invisible Guest (2016)
★★★★ / ★★★★

“The Invisible Guest” is the type of mystery-thriller that invites you, teases you, to catch up to it. I found myself focusing on it so hard because I wished to be one step ahead that eventually I started feel as though my brain was undergoing mental gymnastics. By the end of it, I felt exhilarated from being enchanted by its spell. I imagine that those who are well-versed in twisty thrillers would find this work to be most entertaining. Even those who aren’t are likely to have a ball, too. It is one of those movies in which details matter most and so every second must count. No bathroom breaks here.

The near-ingenious thriller is written and directed by Oriol Paulo, who appears to love words and images equally. Characters are allowed to speak intelligently and for their motivations to make sense. Most of the story is told in flashback. In many films, even in thrillers that are supposed to be exciting, flashbacks tend to command a languid tone like they are mere appendages, side-notes to be considered but never really examined under a microscope. It is the complete opposite here. It is most appropriate that the backward look in time must possess a great sense of urgency, paired by Jaume Martí’s precise editing, because the plot revolves around a man accused of murder who is being prepped by a defense attorney hours before facing a judge.

However, the story is far from straightforward. There is a sea of lies, a wealth of interpretations, and possible suggestions. We even watch the events unfold from other characters’ point of view. Images, however brief, are coupled with every potential scenario. Just as the lawyer, Virginia Goodman (Ana Wagener) must extract the truth from her client, Adrián (Mario Casas), a young successful businessman, in order to create an impenetrable defense, we, too, must wade through the details. It is correct to establish that both characters are intelligent early on and so in order to outsmart them, and the picture, we are challenged to put on our best thinking hat.

Here is the situation: Adrián wakes up in a hotel room with his lover’s corpse (Bárbara Lennie). He claims that there was an attacker that bashed his head onto a mirror which knocked him unconscious for a few minutes. But when the authorities arrived at the scene, the room is locked from the inside. And because it is winter, the hotel staff were instructed to lock all windows from the inside and remove all the handles. There is no way in or out. Adrián’s fingerprints are on the murder weapon. It appears to be an open-and-shut case. But it isn’t because the entirety of the truth started three months ago.

“Contratiempo” builds momentum like one of those cartoon snowballs that get bigger and bigger as it rolls downhill until it is impressive enough to knock just about everything out of the way. At the end of it, I found myself wishing that more American thrillers functioned on such a high caliber. While there are details I caught that would—or should—push the police to get to the truth faster, it doesn’t matter because the film’s pace is so forceful in the forward direction that the experience is like having to put together hundreds of puzzle pieces in fifteen minutes—stressful, ridiculous, and a good time.

10 replies »

  1. Thanks a million for reviewing this film! I have heard about it from one of my friends, but I got it shelved and never got around to seeing it. Your score is very encouraging and I bet it will prove my favourite.

    • It’s near impossible not to like, or at the very least admire, this work. I’m so glad it’s streaming on Netflix for easy access. Definitely try to watch it when you can.

    • DB, yes, definitely watch this one, and also another spanish thriller “The Hidden Face” but DO NOT watch the trailer b/c the trailer reveals the twist; The Hidden Face and The Invisible Guest are two of the very best twists I’ve ever seen, so maybe make it a double feature one weekend. :)

    • DB, please leave a comment on this thread after you watch The Invisible Guest and/or The Hidden Face as I want to know your thoughts. I am glad to see what Franz had to say, and that he liked TIG as much as me. I suspect you will, as well. :)

  2. And it only took you like a year-and-a-half to get to it! lol. I told you this one was worth moving to the top of the list! :) Glad you liked it. See, you didn’t have a clue about that twist at the end! It’s virtually impossible to predict…

    As I was watching it I thought it was a decent movie, and I was looking forward to seeing how it ended as it held my attention, but I didn’t think it was anything spectacular – and then that twist reveal took it to a solid 10! If you and I can both give a film a perfect score (or at least a close to perfect score) then you know it has to be good! :)

    So, this and “Upgrade”. lol. We need to compile a list of films we both love; movie nerds like us, love to make lists.

    I still prefer “The Hidden Face” to this, as I would say that is the best twist I’ve ever seen, and I think I would rank this one second. I think you liked The Hidden Face, but didn’t love it as much as I did. I’d say this one it appears we have equal sentiments for.

    • I think this is the superior movie. Every step (nearly every step) just makes logical sense to me. Or maybe it was because the way it was put together, it dares you to examine it very closely. I love movies like that. Take away the twist and it still stands strong.

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