Tag Archives: thriller

SFIFF: An investigator gets drawn into a mysterious death and unearths demons from his own past in “The Dry”

It’s been a minute since Eric Bana made a movie (that was a success on this side of the globe). You can imagine my surprise when he teamed up with Robert Connolly, a fellow Australian (whose work has never been officially released here except in a few film festivals), for a movie version of Jane Harper’s novel The Dry, set to premiere in the US on May 21st. via IFC theaters.

Every small town has its secrets and the town of Kiewarra is teeming with them. An act of shocking violence that leaves an entire family except for its infant daughter dead opens the story. The (now deceased) father is a former childhood friend of Aaron Falk, a detective who grew up in Kiewarra and has returned upon being summoned by the friend’s parents to clear their son’s name. However, Falk has another connection to Kiewarra that is much darker and lingers on throughout the entire film like a festering wound waiting to release its noxious contents.

For the most part, The Dry is a solid procedural with Bana at the helm, accompanied by Keir O’Donnell as the police officer also assigned to the case. There are moments of genuine suspense and a plausible red herring that somehow doesn’t quite pan out in the way it should, but the flashbacks to when Falk was a teenager are on-spot, filled with dread. A tad bit of ambiance and mood could have helped give this incursion into Gothic a sense of land gone tainted and lives gone to waste. The movie’s flashback sequences, while informative, pop up a bit much and rob the movie of its more disturbing nature of the perpetuation of evil that can pop up in any form. It makes me think that a bit less would have helped more.

Even so, Connolly keeps the movie going, never pausing too much except when the story itself needs to. The Dry might not have a chase sequence typical of American thrillers and is probably a closer portrayal of how an actual procedural works, which keeps it grounded. However, it is compelling, polished, anchored by solid performances all around. Also, and this is not a spoiler, it does have a killer double denouement that has to be seen — they’re both that good. [C+]

Netflix Finds: The Invisible Guest (A Contratiempo)

Here we have a movie that should have been released formally before getting acquired by Netflix right after its world premiere at Fantastic Fest. It’s a shame, and no offense against Netflix, but had I known of this movie I would have front and center in a movie theater.

But, details, timing, it doesn’t matter. Netflix still holds streaming rights to Oriol Paulo’s The Invisible Guest (Contratiempo), where. it sits awaiting a click and a view. Paulo’s movie arrives drenched in Hitchcockian suspense from its opening sequence in which we get introduced to Adrian Doria (Mario Casas), a high-tech businessman caught in a nasty situation involving his now-murdered girlfriend Laura (Barbara Lennie). Doria stands accused of her murder, and his lawyer has contacted a no-nonsense, high-power attorney, Virginia Goodman (Ana Wagener), to defend him. Goodman, upon arriving at Doria’s apartment, reveals that the prosecuting side has found a credible witness who will testify against Doria, so he must tell his side of the story quickly and not omit a single detail to her.

Doria tells his story to Goodman, who, hawk-like and incapable of missing a beat, listens. We get a delicious cat-and-mouse game of storyteller and witness, but with the stakes so high, The Invisible Guest traverses the gamut of noir and whodunit as it had done this before and then some. It becomes next to impossible to establish a clear identification with anyone since both Doria and Laura become complicit in a horrible act of fate, the “setback” of the title. Through Doria, we see a man trying his best to save the skin from flying off him. However, Paulo has other designs on his story’s and he drops little crumbs to the audience just to see who pays attention, and who is simply watching.

No one does suspense as the Spaniards do, and Paulo’s The Invisible Guest is proof of my statement. His movie unfolds rather straightforwardly until what we are watching, what we are being forced to witness and accept, gets thrown out the window and we are left with a different reality. Savvy viewers might figure most of it out rather around the hour mark, but it doesn’t matter. Paulo’s story veers deep into Agatha Christie filtered through a Brian de Palma lens soon after and never bothers to look back to retrace its steps. And in the maelstrom, we have the accused and his defense attorney, measuring each other with pens that act like knives and glances that act as daggers.

The Invisible Guest is a thriller that oozes high-end, high-concept gloss and boasts strong performances by Casas, Wagener, Barbara Lennie, and Jose Coronado.

Grade: A

P.S.: As a side note, there have been a few remakes made from the ashes of this remarkable film. Just last year The Invisible Witness from Italy made its rounds in virtual release, and Netflix also hosts its Indian remake Badla. My advice: stick with the one that matters.