Friday, September 30, 2016

TV Review: And Then There Were None (2015)

And Then There Were None (2015) directed by Craig Viveiros and script by Sarah Phelps based on Agatha Christie's novel

Ten strangers meet on a Soldier Island to either meet with or work for U. N. Owen. He's hired a couple as house servants and a woman as secretary; the others are invited under various pretenses, all of which turn out to be false. Everyone except the host is present when an album is played after dinner. An ominous voice accuses all ten people of various murders for which none of them have been punished. One by one they die under mysterious circumstances, all following a nursery rhyme that has been framed and put in every room in the house: "Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;/ one choked his little self and then there were nine...." U. N. Owen is obviously "unknown," so is there an eleventh person on the island killing them or is one of them the killer? It's 1939 and the island is private with only one boat coming and going, only it's not coming anymore. With no phone to signal the mainland for help, they are on their own, facing harsh and inevitable justice.

Agatha Christie's novel is a classic and possibly her best work (at least, it's my favorite). The characters are fascinating--sympathetic but obviously guilty. The least guilty are the first ones to go, building up the tension and the theme of vengeful justice as the story proceeds. The mystery is fascinating and the resolution highly satisfying.

This television adaptation is in three hour-long episodes. They are quite faithful to the book with some minor changes. The poem is "Ten little soldier boys," a politically correct adaptation from the version I read in my youth, when it was "Ten little Indians," though apparently the original name was even less PC. Apparently the current version of the published novel follows the "soldier boy" version. This change didn't really bother me but I did notice it. Another change was the characters occasionally dropping f-bombs, which was more surprising to me. And there's an odd scene when the last four people have a drinking and coke snorting party, presumably to relieve the tension of their immanent demises. I can see why the film makers put the scene in but it goes on too long and doesn't fit too well into the narrative.

The biggest change is a tonal shift. This adaptation is more of a psychological horror thriller. Most of the characters are haunted by their past misdeeds. In addition to flashbacks showing some of the homicides, there are scenes where the present-day characters see their victims on the island. The on-island scares go overboard once or twice but otherwise are great, adding to the tension and giving the show a very cinematic feel. But it looks more like a horror film than a whodunit.

The acting is top notch, what you would expect from a BBC production. The actors communicate their guilt, denial, fear, and suspicion with a realism that draws the viewers in. The period costumes and setting are also convincing.

Overall, this is a fine adaptation of Christie's book and definitely worth watching.

No comments:

Post a Comment