As we head deeper into the fall movie season, we start hearing more about smart, adult-oriented fare that speaks as much to the intellect as to the gut. Granted, movies like The Girl on the Train, The Accountant and Arrival sound like a lot of fun, but those brainy thrillers tend to be the exception rather than the rule in Hollywood.
Is it really that difficult to make a movie that doesn’t insult the intelligence of potential viewers? Judging by two new European thrillers that just screened at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, the answer is, apparently, no.
Both The Invisible Guest (above) and The Crew cover familiar Hollywood territory with crisp efficiency and fresh style. Both are very appealing to folks who like to be surprised, because neither takes the expected route on the way to their final, unexpected destinations. And both are tremendously appealing to watch with fellow moviegoers in a packed theater.
Hailing from Spain, The Invisible Guest sparks immediate comparisons to the work of the incomparable Alfred Hitchcock, thanks to a locked-room mystery that appears unsolvable. Found in a hotel room clutching the body of his dead lover, a married businessman is immediately arrested for the crime. He protests his innocence, but the evidence is so overwhelming that the widely-publicized trial appears to be only a formality.
On the night before the trial is to begin, an attorney shows up to inform the businessman that an eyewitness has been located, which will likely seal his fate. The lawyer has come out of retirement to help and so the stressed-out businessman finds himself locking eyes with his attorney through the night as she endeavors to figure out a possible defense to save him from the hangman’s noose.
Written and directed by Oriol Paulo, The Invisible Guest features sterling performances by Spanish stars Mario Casas, Barbara Lennie and Ana Wagener, as well as more plot twists and turns than you can count. It moves at a fast and furious pace that will make you forget you’re watching a courtroom thriller that is set in a hotel room and told primarily through flashbacks and narration. The movie is scheduled for release in Spain on January 6, 2017. We hope to see it in U.S. theaters sometime next year.
The Crew keeps its focus on the action, following a small band of criminals for hire. It kicks off with a breathless and efficient theft on the road, which establishes their modus operandi. They are well-prepared to pull off their crimes quickly and then escape into the careful anonymity of their ordinary lives.
Led by Yanis (Sami Bouajila), the team has been successful because they are all extremely good at what they do. Yanis is very good at planning their criminal jobs, but not so good at his personal life. His marriage broke up because of his all-consuming preoccupation with his criminal activities. He feels a great obligation toward his family members, even though his mother has rejected him utterly. Meanwhile, his younger sister has fallen for a fellow crew member and his younger brother wants to do more with the crew, even though he is wildly irresponsible.
The crew’s lightning-like strikes are utterly compelling to watch and as things begin to go haywire for them, due to a job they are forced to accept, the action becomes even more intense and suspenseful. This is one for action fans, but with its characters and family connections, it may remind some of a more dramatic Fast and Furious. Julian Leclercq (Chrysalis, The Assault) directed.
Released earlier this year in its native France, The Crew does not yet have U.S. distribution, but it’s a dark, yet crowd-pleasing thriller that will surely find its way to theaters and/or home video soon.
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