Set against a stunning sea-side villa, the 2023 Spanish thriller-comedy “A Deadly Invitation” (original title: Invitación a un Asesinato) follows a rookie crime podcaster’s attempt to solve her sister’s mysterious death onboard a yacht.
Directed by J.M Cravioto, “A Deadly Invitation” is an Agatha Christie style whodunnit, written by Javier Durán Pérez, Anton Goenechea and Carmen Posadas. Regina Blandón plays the protagonist, Agatha, a nerdy busybody with a popular podcast show about unsolved mysteries. She receives an unexpected invitation from her wealthy older sister, Olivia (Maribel Verdú), to spend a few days at her fancy beach-facing mansion. As it turns out, some of Olivia’s close friends also received the same invite, and she takes them on her yacht, warning that one of them might not see the next morning. Late in the night, Olivia is found dead, possibly murdered, and everybody becomes a suspect. The plot slightly reminded me of the Bollywood thriller ‘Neeyat,’ which is also about a wealthy person inviting a group of friends and family to his seaside castle and then mysteriously dying.
It takes a while for “A Deadly Invitation” to become engaging because, at first, it’s challenging to be interested in what becomes of the wealthy and vain Olivia, who had been married five times and led an extravagant life. Except for Agatha, all the other suspects appear snobbish or insincere, such as Olivia’s embittered friend Sonia (Stephanie Cayo), who used to date Agatha’s ex-husband and is currently in a relationship with a seemingly dubious yoga instructor, Carlos (Aarón Díaz). Then there’s a fidgety doctor, another ex-boyfriend whose acting career is down in the dumps and a sarcastic ex-husband. Though a suspect herself, Agatha helps the police crack her sister’s murder case.
The cinematography of “A Deadly Invitation” stands out as its most compelling feature. The majority of the story unfolds against the backdrop of the stunning blue sea or within the exquisitely adorned seaside property. The color palette is vibrant, sunny, and pleasant, providing a refreshing departure from the typical dimly-lit mysteries that often rely on warm orange-red hues. Regina Blandón is entertaining as the “know it all” rookie investigator, who bosses around the cop investigating her sister’s murder, while the rest of the cast is caricature-like and doesn’t leave a strong impression.
Overall, “A Deadly Invitation” is an amusing mystery, which starts out weak, but gets more gripping in the second half and covers some surprisingly serious themes after maintaining a light-comedic tone for most of the runtime. With a runtime of 1 hour and 32 minutes, the movie is not excessively long, making it a good choice for those seeking an entertaining thriller similar to Adam Sandler’s ‘Murder Mystery’ or ‘Knives Out.’ However, ‘A Deadly Invitation’ doesn’t quite match the humor of the former or the stylish thrills of the latter, but it’s somewhere in between.
Rating: 6 on 10. Stream the film on Netflix.
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