Starring: Aidan Turner, Charles Dance, Toby Stephens
There were slim pickings for mystery fans over the Yuletide period, so all the more reason to be grateful to the secret Santas at the BBC for bringing us this classy three-parter, which now gets a very welcome DVD release. Based on one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated whodunnits, it sees a selection of the great and the good – a judge, a doctor, a general, a policeman, a woman involved in charitable causes – invited to stay on a house on a remote island, only to find themselves stranded and being picked off one by one.
This version is perhaps slightly more tilted towards horror than some Christie fans might like – with all those long, intense tracking shots of shadowy corridors, you occasionally get the impression that its three directors have spent rather too much time watching Kubrick’s The Shining. But then again, it’s a valid approach, given that the source novel is one of the most savage of the Queen of Crime’s books. Besides, the whole thing is sumptuously – if rather gloomily – mounted, and it’s a joy to spend time with such a gilt-edged cast.
After steeling hearts as Poldark earlier in the year, Aidan Turner shows further evidence of his leading man chops in another sultry role, and both Sam Neil and Charles Dance bring their A game to meaty supporting parts. Most surprising, though, is Toby Stephens, who gives his best screen performance in years as a psychologist who is a twitching, sweating meat sack of raw nerves.
If the recent, rather vapid David Walliam-starring Tommy and Tuppence series made you fear that the BBC had lost the knack of doing Christie, then this sterling adaptation is reassuring evidence that her novels can still transition without mishap onto the Beeb’s prime time schedules. 8/10