There’s something to be said for characters in movies actually doing things. Finding stuff out, following clues, getting at the heart of a mystery with some hard work. Inspector Amaia Salazar (Marta Etura), the placid heart of “The Invisible Guardian,” certainly works hard, but finds nothing herself. Every revelation she has is from turning around to see some important plot device. It’s like whatever person she’s tasked with finding stands directly behind her until her Spidey Sense tingles. Even if it doesn’t, she has a whole host of coworkers more than willing to over explain their findings and feelings in equal measure.
Every crime drama cliche you can imagine is stuffed in here: a steely cop with a sordid childhood, an arbitrary day-by-day structure, and a killer obsessed with young girls. To make things more complicated, the murders have occurred in her hometown. She returns to lead the case. Living with her grandmother and sister, though, takes a toll on her, bringing her back to her years with an abusive mother. While she investigates, she has to wrestle with her personal demons.
Early on, the media dubs the killer “Basajaun,” after the creature of a Basque legend. Amaia’s grandmother is quick to correct them, though. The Basajaun is a silent protector. An invisible guardian, if you will. Amaia takes this to heart and begins seeing the creature in the forest around her town. It’s presented as something frightening and mysterious, but the constant conversations about how misrepresented it is make those moments hard to take seriously. They’re unintentionally hilarious, if anything.
It’s not all bad, however. Director Fernando González Molina has a tight sense of direction. He works through a scene efficiently, no matter how cliched. His style is generally unhurried and has a good sense of the setting, shooting it in a steely grey light, laden with clouds of fog drifting through forests. What bogs it down is the editing. Constant slow fades and hokey flashbacks make the whole thing feel elementary.
“The Invisible Guardian” is another banal crime thriller slapped together with all the good pieces of better crime thrillers. Sadly, it doesn’t do the work to make those pieces fit together. So, what viewers are left with is what inspector Salazar discovers, someone who is nothing on her own and isn’t played interestingly enough to be compelling. The story tries to pick up the slack by introducing a supernatural element to the story that ends up nearly tearing the whole thing apart. The only good thing is that it goes exactly where you think it will. There’s some comfort in that.