'And Then Were None' is one of my favourite, and one of my first, Agatha Christie books, as well as one of my favourites of all time. The plot is simply ingenious, as well as a contender for Christie's darkest, as is the final solution (left me completely floored on first reading, though it is very difficult to pull off adaptation-wise), there is a suspenseful and ominous atmosphere evoked and the characters are interesting.
This 2015 adaptation of 'And Then There Were None' (when aired it turned out to be a huge improvement over the disappointing previous Agatha Christie adaptation 'Partners in Crime') for me is the third best behind the 1987 Russian (the most faithful) and the 1945 Rene Clair (which had a particularly great cast) versions. Of all the versions, the only one that didn't do anything for me was the 1989 film.
It gets off to a great start with this first episode. The initial introductory stages may be a touch on the slow side, though credit is due for it conveying more menace in these stages than how most of the other adaptations started. While some may find fault with some aspects like the much talked about swearing, gruesome killings and the ending they weren't a problem personally. Some may find the violence and swearing is gratuitous, not me, while the swearing is somewhat anachronistic for Christie it does fit the characters' increasingly fragile states of mind and doesn't feel that out of place within the increasingly dire situation. Aiden Turner's much talked about sex appeal wasn't that much of a distraction either.
Beyond the slightly slow start, the episode very quickly gets incredibly gripping. The dinner scene really captivates in its tense atmosphere, apparent throughout albeit more subtle but especially when the accusations of the characters' pasts and crimes are made and after where it builds until a real sense of dread. Did find in the adaptation that Blore's (in particular) crime is far too blatant, to the extent that that it didn't cause suspicion is hard to believe, and goes against the motive for the killings (more equal culpability than direct responsibility).
Visually, the episode looks fantastic, with stylish filming and locations and lighting that looked both beautiful and effectively claustrophobic, with the house quite rightly like a character in itself. The music is suitably ominous without being overbearing, and the script has plenty of entertaining and nail-biting parts as well as intelligently written. There is a real sinister tone, frightening suspense and claustrophobic dread that is maintained throughout the adaptation and even increased. As well as being a mystery it was a psychological character study too, something that not every adaptation did. The direction is handled beautifully and deftly.
Can find nothing to fault the cast. is particularly true with Charles Dance, who has a cold but understated authority, Aiden Turner, who has more than just sex appeal having also broodiness, Toby Stephens' indignant and commanding Armstrong (any overdone scenes fitted with the horrors of the situation) and Burn Gorman, who had a menacing but also nervous intensity. Maeve Dermody is also deserving of credit for bringing some vulnerability to Vera but also steel, and it was great to see Vera show her true colours at the end which we didn't get to see enough of in other adaptations that adopted the alternate ending. Miranda Richardson's Emily Brent is a character we feel repulsion and pity for and Douglas Booth's Marston is perhaps the best acted of all the adaptations and the truest to the book, youthful, reckless handsome and a little annoying but not obnoxious. Sam Neill brings dignified gravitas as McArthur. Anna Maxwell Martin and Noah Taylor fare solidly.
Overall, a great start. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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