Invitation to a Murder, 2023.
Directed by Stephen Shimek.
Starring Mischa Barton, Chris Browning, Seamus Dever, Bianca A. Santos, Giles Matthey, James Urbaniak, Grace Lynn Kung, and Alex Hyde-White.
A reclusive billionaire invites six seemingly random strangers to his island to spend the weekend, but things take a darker turn when bodies keep piling up.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but when one reads the aforementioned premise, the first thought that comes to the mind of any fan of the whodunnit genre is ‘is this another adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None?’. The answer is yes and no simultaneously, because that’s the Gods honest truth. If you are going in expecting a top-notch mystery thriller whodunnit that pays homage to Christie’s engrossing work, let me give you a word of advice – temper your expectations.
As detailed earlier in brief, the story follows six seemingly random strangers, as they arrive on the private island estate of reclusive textile magnate Mr. Finley. We are told at the very outset that what is known of the chap is best relegated to hearsay and rumor, and maintaining that anonymity is something that he worked hard to do. So, that raises the question as to why six unrelated strangers were invited in the first place.
Taking the reigns of this motley crew is the unassuming yet strong willed amateur sleuth Miranda Green (Mischa Barton), who must solve the mystery at the heart of this morbid tale. The usual suspects are all here; from dipsomaniac news reporter Donald Walker (Chris Browning), smooth talking lawyer Lawrence Kane (Seamus Dever) to sultry hotel waitress Carmen Blanco (Bianca Santos), all and more, are suspects of this deceptive game of cold-blooded murder.
I’ll get right to the point. There are aspects of this film I enjoyed somewhat, chief of which were some (not all) of the performances dished out by the cast. A clear standout was Bianca A. Santos, who is simply beguiling as the mysterious Carmen. It is a turn filled with the right amounts of mystery, allure and heart, making Santos a talent to look out for in future projects. The movie’s protagonist played by the O.C. alum Mischa Barton, is satisfying enough but I honestly expected more from the actress. Chris Browning as the stereotypical hard-boiled tabloid man was also a decent turn, that is worthy of mention.
The rest of the cast, however, failed to make an impression on me. All issues I had regarding this affair stemmed from the uninspiring story inspired by Christie’s works, however, the biggest crime committed by the writers was that their screenplay lacked the key ingredient that made the author’s efforts so memorable – her colorful characters. I mean, most of the characters populating this film come off as bland caricatures and pale imitations of superior whodunnits hailing from the past. The production values aren’t anything to write home either, giving off major made-for-TV vibes. Nothing memorable at all.
In a day and age when we’re witnessing a resurgence in whodunnits with the likes of Rian Johnson’s Knives Out series and Kenneth Branagh’s take on Poirot, sub-par efforts with nary a thing to offer tend to be ignored and simply forgotten; and such is the fate of this particular film.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.