We don’t want to compare A Deadly Invitation to Knives Out or A Murder Mystery just because there is another detail-based sleuth at the heart of things who is investigating insufferable rich people with vapid secrets that are not all that scandalous. But the opening shot of A Deadly Invitation strongly makes us think of that because of its insistence on ‘details,’ which we know is Hercule Poirot’s school of deduction.
A Deadly Invitation makes no attempt to contradict that, and sadly, it doesn’t even give the main protagonist, Agatha, a proper personality as a detective. That is sad since the other characters are not deprived of it. We know who they are and what they are like just because all of them are novel characters. They have all been seen before in other fiction, and we are not holding our breath for any surprises. That is exactly what makes us realize what a low-effort movie this was. The one who came up with the script did not care at all. Another reason that this is so glaringly obvious is because of the way the mystery unfolds. We see Agatha chancing upon random clues and then delivering a monologue as an answer in the last half an hour. We are completely alienated as the audience, and considering that the first half hour is somewhat slow, if you don’t stick to the last thirty minutes with sheer willpower, you won’t care very much about the result.
If you have watched or read enough mystery novels, you already know what the end result is going to be. But even if you don’t, a mystery should never be written in such a way that all our guesses are right, and the obvious thing is also the right solution. This contradicts the fact that we don’t get many hints in the narrative to form our theories about who would be doing what. Essentially, as the audience, you can’t suspect characters just because they feel ‘off.’ We need hints, fishy behavior, subplots, clashes, and personalities, which all come together in the theories presented by the detective at the end. But we got absolutely none of that. Before the detective presented the answers, we were not able to form theories of our own, which is a sign of our lack of engagement with the film. That is not how stories of mystery work.
We are also not fond of the attempt at comedy in this movie. What were the makers thinking with this change of tone and needless absurdity? At least, if the idea could not change, did that have to be the execution? A Deadly Invitation reeks of a lack of time being given to the writers to do what they needed to do. We admit that this is not a good excuse because a simple rearrangement and editing could have greatly enhanced the story. It wouldn’t have been out of the box, but it need not have been a shoddy job either. We feel particularly bad about it because the mystery itself was excellent, but the unfolding of it was awful. We would say that it felt like a chunk of the film had been chopped off, and the remaining parts were just hastily stitched together.
Also, we are repeatedly told that Agatha, the protagonist, is a famous podcaster. But we never knew how. Whatever she said at the beginning is what everyone else with a microphone and a recording device, with an interest in true crime, says. We would have loved some mention of her cases, her method of working, or just her struggle in general. It wouldn’t have taken much to make it a part of the script.
Finally, while we are on the topic of Agatha, we absolutely cannot stand uncharming main leads, and it gets worse with stories of mystery. We can even digest lackluster characters in rom-coms because boring people also have the right to fall in love and tell their stories. It is another matter of whether we end up liking it or not, but our point is that being bland is unacceptable when you are the detective trying to handle the big egos of people on a yacht who don’t even know what they are there for. Why would any of the characters listen to or respect Agatha? They are rich, and they don’t care about true crime podcasts other than for their entertainment value, because these characters don’t believe that something like this would happen to them. But on the other hand, since they are all suspects, does it make sense to treat Agatha as just another person in the house, or would it have been more intelligent to try and form a connection with her, hitherto mislead her, or get her on your side? There are so many things that A Deadly Invitation is missing, and this review is likely going to be a tirade against all that.
We have said many times before that we have accepted safe and cliche content as a permanent part of what we watch. We would never complain about that, but we will never stop pointing out the lack of self-awareness that the makers seem to have. In the case of A Deadly Invitation, the story is obviously inspired by a couple of famous stories from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and a few others. Did the makers really believe that all they had to do was set up the crime and jump to the answer? Did they really not realize what makes the stories tick and how they would work in today’s climate? A lack of awareness of these answers is what makes A Deadly Invitation so amateurish and terribly done.
In terms of whether we will recommend this movie or not, we would just tell you to read a book. Pick any one of the many works written by the authors mentioned above because they are undoubtedly the inspiration behind this work. Also, nothing beats the written word’s way of describing a person or a situation through a detective’s lens. The books are where you need to look if you want to feel the thrill you were expecting from A Deadly Invitation, because the film gives you none of that and is a serious miss.