“There will be no salvation without suffering,” says Ana Wagener’s character at one point in the 2017 Spanish film Contratiempo (The Invisible Guest). And as the movie progresses, you realise the truth of the character’s words. Both for the protagonist and the audience, Contratiempo offers a healthy dose of suffering as well as pure moments of revelation.
One of the many things that I liked about the first 30 minutes of this thriller is that there are no pretensions that the film is anything else but popcorn suspense. It cuts straight to the chase and begins from the beginning. Or so it seemed to my untrained eyes at first. But things take on a clearer turn when the male lead begins to spill the beans. What had happened that one night. Unlike many of the more new-age thrillers, Contratiempo is not a ‘whydunit’ but your classic whodunit.
The plot at its surface level is a revenge thriller, but as the film progresses, we see that it tries to juggle multiple balls at once. And that’s when things get trickier. Filmmaker Oriol Paulo definitely has the potential of being one master juggler, but in this movie at least, the director tries to lure the viewers into different traps and gets caught in one of them himself, which makes for a tiresome middle.
However, the last 30 minutes saves Contratiempo from becoming a pain-in-the-neck murder mystery which attempts to pull off something smart but ends up looking like a complete wreck. You will, in all likelihood, be able to predict the next move of the director before it all concludes with a dramatic bang (which is never a good sign), but at least you will have a fun time doing so.
The performances are pitch-perfect, with Ana Wagener shining like a powerful source of light and righteousness. José Coronado delivers a credible performance of a father who will go to any lengths for his son. There is a sense of gravitas and grace in the way he carries himself throughout the film that makes you root for him.
Contratiempo is being remade into a Bollywood flick with Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu playing significant parts. But will it be able to repeat the box office success of the original?