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Crooked House – Review


Release Date: 21 November 2017
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Writer: Julian Fellowes - Gilles Paquet-Brenner - Tim Rose Price [Screenplay] - Agatha Christie [Novel]
Cast: Christina Hendricks - Gillian Anderson - Glenn Close - Max Irons



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Posted December 3, 2017 by

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Crooked House Review:

Are we seeing a resurgence in cinematic adaptations of the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie’s greatest works? After Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express opened to mixed reviews last month, another of Agatha Christie’s seminal stories has made it to our screens. The stand-alone mystery Crooked House was apparently one of Christie’s favourites, and given its dark and disturbing plot, one can see why.

Private investigator Charles Hayward (Max Irons) is visited by an unlikely figure, his former lover Sophia (Stefanie Martini). Following their estrangement, Sophia’s grandfather, wealthy corporate magnate Aristide Leonides, has passed away and Sophia believes it was murder. She asks Charles to investigate, and despite his initial reluctance, he agrees to do so. What he uncovers is a family torn apart by hate, secrets and a most unlikely killer.

Crooked House Review Cast

Credit: Metro Films

Christie’s stories seem to be eternal; she delved into the human psyche, which is perhaps why her work has stood the test of time. Much of the novelty of her ingenious twists have diminished since we already know these stories, or are able to work them out, but the calculated way she brings these murders to life is the crux of why film-makers keep coming back to them. Crooked House has so far not seen a cinematic adaptation, which makes this film a treat for Christie connoisseurs.

It has taken Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame) around five years to bring this adaptation to the screen. After an aborted attempt at making the film in 2012, the all-star cast of 2017’s Crooked House is a delightful pleasure to behold. Powerhouse actors Anderson and Close steal every scene they wander into, while Amanda Abbington as the scientist daughter-in-law, Clemency (remember her from Sherlock?) and Terence Stamp as Chief Inspector Taverner ably carry the supporting cast. I felt Christian McKay, playing the bumbling favourite son of the deceased, and Christina Hendricks, the eccentric, American matriarch, were a tad too hammy in their performances, but one could put that down to overwrought emotions. Irons’ Charles is a genial character, playing an audience stand-in discovering the inner workings of the Leonides family. He lacks the requisite charisma of a Christie detective, but despite it all, carries the film and its revelations well.

Crooked House star Glenn Close

Glenn Close in ‘Crooked House’

While Fellowes is in his element, writing the script for an era he is all too familiar with, director Gilles Paquet-Brenner seems out of his depth. The film feels tonally wrong, despite capturing the cinematography we have become used to from the many Poirot and Miss Marple adaptations.

Throughout, composer Hugo de Chaire’s music seems to belong to a film that the director wished he had made, but one that didn’t quite make it to the big screen. The framing of the shots feels too staged, too much of a replica of what we’ve seen before, rather than the director’s own reimagining of telling this tale.

Crooked House Review

The pacing is also off, so the central conceits fall flat instead of intriguing the audience – shoehorning a kiss and romantic getaway in place of an organic burgeoning of love would have helped develop the tensions in the third act much better. There is no atmosphere of mystery in the director’s touch, which detracts completely from watching a Christie film. As stylistic as this film is, it doesn’t capture the magnificence of what Christie wrote. We learn plenty through exposition, but not enough through clever direction of the actors or the story. This is a real pity, given that the final revelation – whether you are familiar with it or not – is a frantic, emotional and shocking climax. The denouement being changed to a more dramatic car chase, instead of a shocking discovery, like it is in the book, may not sit well with Christie fans but still manages to be exciting.

If you are looking to scratch that murder mystery itch, this film is an easy-going ensemble feast to enjoy. Unfortunately, it just isn’t a very memorable one.


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Lestat de Lioncourt
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