“There will be no salvation without suffering”
Picking up from where he left off in The Body (2012), Oriol Paolo directed the mystery thriller film The Invisible Guest (Spanish: Contratiempo) in 2016, presently claiming a new rise in interest among legal thriller enthusiasts of Primal Fear (1996) and Michael Clayton.
Staying true to an invisible checklist of Spanish productions, boasting constant plot-twists and ever-building suspense, this dynamic story offers an undoubtedly entertaining journey. And yet, it fails to avoid some forcefully polished bumps along the way.
Successful businessman Adrián Doria (Mario Casas) wakes up injured in a hotel room to find his lover, Laura (Bárbara Lennie), dead. The door had been locked from the inside, and the police arrests him as the primary suspect. From that point on, Adrian follows the advice of his lawyer, Félix Leiva (Fransesc Orella), and hires prestigious defense attorney Virginia Goodman (Anna Wagener) to prove his innocence. A new witness shows up and Goodman has three hours to work on her defense line by eliciting the whole truth from the young entrepreneur – and nothing but the truth.
The idea of unfolding the different perspectives is interesting in itself, taking you on a fast-paced ride to the very end. However, the original murder mystery, full of lies, deceit and hidden motives, somehow loses its charm after a series of forced surprises that seem to occur just for the sake of it. Despite the lack of character development, and a very predictable ending creeping in early on, the entertainment value is still plausible thanks to the film’s masterful editing and camera takes.
Shot in various locations, including Terrassa, Barcelona, the region of Biscay and stunning Vall de Núria, the film does not disappoint the eye. Meanwhile, the atmospheric music adds to the adrenaline rush induced by the unravelling mystery. Protagonist Mario Casas, known from Three meters above the sky (2010) and Witches of Sugar-Murdi, delivers his role along equally convincing Wagener, while Jose Coronado offers an impressive performance as the father of circumstantial victim, Daniel.
The English version of the title strays from the original, which means “an unexpected event” or a “setback”. Giving an even more rigid translation of contratiempo, it’d be much closer to the idea of racing against time to uncover the truth. Seen for what it is – a film aiming to keep you on the edge of your seat for almost two hours, it can live up to certain expectations. As long as you ignore its far-fetched hiccups.
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