Set in 1934, six strangers receive an invitation for a weekend trip to a private island from a mysterious Mr. Finley. Not a single one knows why they were invited, but when one of them gets murdered, suddenly nobody is safe and everyone’s a suspect.
If you’ve seen the 1985 movie Clue, Invitation to a Murder should feel familiar to you, since it’s pretty much just that movie played straight and without the multiple endings.
Invitation to a Murder wears its Agatha Christie influence on its sleeve, even mentioning the author’s famous detective character, Hercule Poirot, in an early scene. There certainly hasn’t been a shortage of Christie-inspired films and TV shows lately — See How They Run, Glass Onion, and even the fourth season of You all clearly take inspiration from the author — but Invitation to a Murder feels smaller in scale than all those three movies.
This works to Invitation to a Murder’s advantage, as it’s quite refreshing to see a film be so content with being a simple whodunnit and nothing more. There’s a murder, there’s a set number of suspects, and the location makes it impossible for any outsider to intervene.
Such a premise is only as strong as its cast of characters, and thankfully for the film, its suspect list is a pretty fun one. None of these characters are all that complex or well-developed, but this movie doesn’t need that, just characters distinct and mysterious enough that it’s easy (and fun) to be suspicious of each one.
The actors do a good job with their respective characters — all of them know exactly what genre they’re in and present accordingly. However, the standout here is Mischa Barton as Miranda Green, the film’s protagonist and very own Hercule Poirot. For starters, it’s always fun to see a lead female detective rather than a male one, but it’s also nice that the film didn’t feel the need to make her all tough-as-nails and stoic. Barton plays her character with a lot of softness and compassion.
Production-wise, Invitation to a Murder clearly doesn’t have that big of a budget, which makes it more impressive how nice the film looks. The costumes and set designs nail the Agatha Christie look, reminding me a lot of the 1974 film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. Invitation to a Murder almost doesn’t look like a 2023 film, rather a remastered version of a film released decades ago, and this adds to the film’s charms.
Of course, given the great number of whodunits the past few years have given us — inspired by Agatha Christie or not — it’s challenging to consider Invitation to a Murder a must-watch for fans of the genre, especially since the entire thing feels oh-so-basic and simple.
Still, there are bound to be mystery fans out there tired of writers trying to outsmart their audience with outrageous plot twists, and if you’re one of them, Invitation to a Murder should be right up your alley with its simple but effective approach to the genre. Given its runtime of only 90 minutes, the film is at least a short fun watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
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While not all that memorable, Invitation to a Murder is fun enough that mystery fans (especially Agatha Christie fans) are bound to have a good time, with its inviting visuals, likable cast, and entertaining set of characters.
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