1 out of 5
Directed by: Fernando González Molina
Wow, so, this is a bad movie! I put the emphasis on ‘this’ there to highlight the revelation of what a bad movie feels like to watch, whereas I might emphasize the ‘bad movie’ part of the sentence if there were direct aspects of it – acting, the way it’s shot, the story, etc. – that are actively bad, but ‘The Invisible Guardian’ is perhaps more impressive for being passively bad. The technical aspects of it are competent, I suppose, but almost the entirety of it otherwise feels skimmed from ‘police procedural’ stylings from, say, a decade or more ago, presented with the type of self-assurance of being based on a popular book and having a built-in trilogy of material, ready to go, apparently resulting in a very faceless flick. Given that the we have a wide range of movies to choose from nowadays, it’s possible that there are many, many movies that fall into a similar bucket of blandness – as that’s probably the film’s main sin, compacted further by the way it hops, skips, and jumps over and through any necessary character building or scene setting – and I’m just not watching them, but I watched ‘The Invisible Guardian,’ and thus I remark: so this is a bad movie!
‘Guardian’ opens with a dead body in a forest – a young girl. And because our movie killers must have a quirk: there is a particular cookie placed upon her shaved pubis, which inspector Amaia (Marta Etura) is quick to identify as being popular in a specific region… She’s from there, you see, and her family owns a bakery. Not that the film tells you this, and not that it’s woven in to the dialogue or scenes in such a way as to suggest that the filmmakers respected their audience’s intelligence, rather that it just becomes a detail later on, in the same way that Amaia’s family pops up for no reason at a funeral – solely to “introduce” the characters to us – or that there’s a “subplot” about Amaia avoiding fertility treatments, only to give her husband a reason to make poo-poo faces at her; nothing in the movie is an integral part of the story, or necessary for its characters, they all just exist. This is what renders all of those characters as completely blank templates (only Amaia’s cop partner, Jonan – played by Nene – seems to emerge with an inkling of personality), and makes settings which are intended to be important, such as the family bakery, equally blank. There is a scene where Amaia wakes from a dream in the bakery, and there’s been no context given to the location at that point, nor is there any story logic for her having sleepwalked there. As more bodies pop up, and the killer is dubbed ‘El Basajaún,’ a creature from local mythology, unsurprising connections to Amaia’s family occur, and she follows the tried and true movie-cop practice of not doing any detecting but just guessing, really – because she’s a great cop! The best of ’em! – and calling in all reinforcements on a whim.
The look of the movie suffers the same. It is always raining, because it is always raining. (Except when it isn’t.) You could tell me that the setting – Baztan – is plagued by such weather, but this is never brought forth in the film itself: it’s just raining. The movie is lit with the same blue light that is universally used for ‘gritty cop dramas.’ Action and conversations are not static, but there’s also no sense of a human being behind the camera – there is zero motivation.
Perhaps the explosion of “buried secret”-type police procedurals in the wake of Broadchurch several years back has spoiled movies like this from being able to skate by, but that same explosion gave us a lot of mediocre stuff to watch, and while some of that has been bad, I haven’t seen one so miraculously toothless as ‘The Invisible Guardian,’ which would seem to be staffed with some talent and shot by professionals, but then combed over to remove 100% of any identifying traits.