Agatha is the OG.
From the BBC comes a three-episode miniseries adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, whose original title was as politically incorrect as anything you’ll ever see. Now this reveals my pop fiction ignorance, but this is considered Christie’s masterpiece, one of the all-time bestselling mysteries and the most adapted of any of the prolific author’s work.
The upshot of my ignorance: I went into this viewing with no prior knowledge.
Which was great, because the BBC adaptation — already a gorgeous, tension-drenched, dark-as-all-Hades production — delivered an even bigger narrative wallop with its mystery. I was kept guessing until the end (as was my wife), making this home viewing experience one of the most memorable I’ve had in some time.
The basic plot: ten strangers convene on a mansion on the middle of the sea, cut off from the rest of the civilized world. One by one, they meet grisly fates, which seems to match up with the lyrics of a popular poem. Thing is these people appear to deserve the violence. As we learn back-stories, many closet skeletons emerge and their deaths seem to be mortal punishments meted out on them.
Can this suspense be stretched out for 177 minutes?
Oh yes…Yes, it can.
This is one hypnotic piece of mystery tale-slinging. Production design is peerless, with the footage captured in an almost period dream-state (happening at the foot of World War II). Costuming, staging, set, and score all combine to build an authentic world that is both ornate and menacing. Truly one of the coolest things you’ll ever watch.
But all the veneer in the world can’t mask a shoddy story and that is NOT the case here. There’s a reason why And Then There Were None is legend. It’s a brutal, engrossing mystery on its own, populated by fascinating characters (none of whom are worth rooting for) who find themselves at the mercy of a deadly, mysterious force. The extended runtime allows these characters to breathe and their flashback stories to reveal. It’s all compelling stuff, brought to life by top-shelf actors like Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Toby Stephens (Black Sails), and Sam Neill (Jurassic Park).
And though the big payoffs in the end (and there are multiple) seem a bit like smoke and mirrors, they are nonetheless extremely satisfying.
Acorn’s DVD release is no slouch either. A beautiful standard def 1.78:1 widescreen presentation with Dolby 5.1 Surround, and hefty featurettes on the making-of and Agatha Christie, an interview with writer Sarah Phelps, and a photo gallery.
I’m keeping this write-up brief because, frankly, if you have any interest in well-done takes of suspense I don’t think I can recommend anything more highly than And Then There Were None. My own lament was I got the DVD to review and not the Blu-ray, which I have to believe is an even greater visual feast.
Atmospheric and awesome. Not Guilty.