Recovering from the horrors of World War I, British Army officer Arthur Hastings hopes to find peace and quiet at a country manor in the English countryside. But when the matriarch dies during the night from strychnine poisoning, Hastings enlists the help of an old friend staying nearby with other war refugees to help solve the murder: former Belgian police detective Hercule Poirot. Written by
'The Mysterious Affair at Styles' was Agatha Christie's first novel, published in 1920, and also her first to feature the character of Hercule Poirot. See more »
When Poirot proves Alfred Inglethorpe has an alibi for buying the poison, Hastings says the investigation is "back at square one". This phrase comes from radio commentaries of football matches in the 1930's. The pitch was divided into hypothetical squares so listeners could follow the action. A team which failed to attack and was forced to defend would be "back in Square One". The phrase was unknown in 1917. See more »
Enjoyable but not as entertaining or engaging as the previous 2 seasons
Although IMDb lists this feature length outing as the first episode of the third season, it is actually a stand-alone episode which was made to mark 100 years since the birth of Christie. I know this because early doors I did have to do some Googling to understand the context because the film is the very first book where Poirot makes an appearance and as it fit into the flow of the season. The plot sees Hastings having only previously met Poirot once but by chance reunited with him as the little Belgian and others have temporarily been granted entry into the UK to escape the war. Whenever the residence where Hastings is staying experiences a death, he suggests they involve Poirot to help with the investigation.
The change in time appears to have had other impacts too because this special is not quite as good as the previous two seasons had been. The change in dynamic and relationship is an impact but it is not particularly negative in the grand scheme of things but it does jar a little when watching in the context of the previous episodes; Hastings is a darker character in the wake of the war and Poirot's relationship with him is perhaps too superficial (as one would expect) so the humor between them is not as evident. The plot is engaging but not all of it makes sense and as part of filling out two hours, there is a lot more in the way of red herrings than normal which by definition means that the mystery becomes less accessible and less straightforward. These factors are small things though because, although clearly different from the episodes before, the film still works very well and delivers in the ways it normally does even if that is not quite as well as we are used to.
The cast remain very good although understandably there is some restrictions on their characters as we "get the gang together" as it were. Suchet is as good as ever even in a younger appearance; I liked that he retained the character but made it work a few steps earlier in the line for example his fussy, irritable streak is more gently shown with an attention to detail. Fraser has less of a comedic role, which is a shame as he is very good at that, but he does make for more of a rounded character. Jackson is solid in support as usual but is less used. The supporting cast are generally pretty good although in a way I went for them less because to me they were part of the "fuller" film feel and thus worked a little against the fresher, more accessible plots than I had enjoyed of late.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles is still a very enjoyable film that is a nice addition to the episodes even if it clunks a little bit against the flow. The essence is still there even if it must be said the longer running time and the change in the dynamics does rather reduce the fresh humor of the episodes and how accessible they were.
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