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It's difficult, perhaps nearly impossible, to write an objective,
clear- eyed review of Curtain at this point. Those of us who enjoyed
Suchet's definitive portrayal are filled with a mix of emotions. So I
won't even try to be objective.
The setting was drab and dark, yes, but that, I think, was part of the point. A sumptuous, beautiful setting, like that seen in Five Little Pigs, would've seemed out of place. Styles is a decayed, dying home, a shadow of itself -- and so, it seems, is Poirot.
Closer observers of UK television and movies might recognize members of the cast and comment on their ability to carry off their roles. I can only say that I thought all the actors did, at minimum, competent jobs. Hugh Fraser and Aidan McArdie deserve particular commendation for turning in wonderful performances. It nearly goes without saying that David Suchet proves, yet again, why he is the definitive Poirot.
The expectations for this episode were tremendous. I'd say that the production did an excellent job satisfying Christie purists, an easier task given that she wrote this at the height of her powers. A wonderful way to close out a wonderful series, n'est pas?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ever since seeing Sad Cypress for the first time 10 years ago, I have
been a loyal fan of Agatha Christie: Poirot and of Agatha Christie. The
series has been a pleasure to watch in so many ways, even when you see
an episode countless times you find something more to like further
about it and pick up on things you didn't see before. And mostly the
quality has been very high, there are a handful of truly outstanding
adaptations(After the Funeral, Five Little Pigs, Sad Cypress, Wasps
Nest, The Chocolate Box, Adventure of the Italian Nobleman, The ABC
Murders, Peril at End House), a few disappointing ones(Taken at the
Flood, Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Adventure of Johnny Waverly, Mystery of
the Blue Train, Labours of Hercules, none of them are terrible though
or below 5/10 on personal ranking) and rest decent to very good(even
the much-maligned, but to me underrated, Appointment with Death and
Murder on the Orient Express).
The 13th season, like most of the seasons in the series(mostly the later ones) hasn't been consistent. Dead Man's Folly and Elephants Can Remember(the latter being much better than the source material)were excellent; The Big Four was mostly enjoyable but let down by the final solution, Simon Lowe and Miss Lemon and Hastings being wasted; and Labours of Hercules was a disappointment, had a number of good things but too dull and jumbled, and like Cards on the Table it tries to cram in too many ideas and didn't develop them enough. Curtain: Poirot's Last Case has been the adaptation that I, and many others most definitely, had been most anticipating, mainly because we wanted to see whether it would a good episode and send-off and that it is based on great source material. The book is very clever and poignant with one of Christie's mot ingenious solutions, an atmosphere that is ominous and poignant, strong characters and a cunning plot.
Curtain: Poirot's Last Case does manage to be a good episode and good send-off. No, scratch that, it is wonderful in both areas. Maybe it could have been longer perhaps and the ominous components in the book, while present and well-incorporated, are quite not as powerful. These are nit-picky really, and those aside Curtain: Poirot's Last Case is spot on. Not just the best of the 13th season but possibly also the best adaptation since After the Funeral. "Purists" will be happy that the adaptation is very faithful to the book, in most details, spirit, dialogue, structure and atmosphere. Any changes are very few and very minor.
It is a beautifully made adaptation, not as sumptuous as others(Five Little Pigs comes to mind) but it is shot with affection, the period detail is splendid and evocative and the haunting and melancholic look the adaptation adopts, as seen in the colours and how it's lit, fits wonders with the tone of the book and story. Christian Henson's music, which has more of a somewhat cinematic sound to it than Christopher Gunning's, has subtle parts and powerfully orchestrated ones without feeling too intrusive or brash. The use of Chopin's Raindrop Prelude is lovely. The dialogue is very thought-provoking and beautifully written, much of it like it's directly lifted out of Christie's writing. Poirot's treatment of Hastings might be a turn-off point for some in comparison to before, understandably as we are not used to Poirot being like that but it wasn't a problem to me considering the state Poirot is in throughout. And you can still see parts that are reminiscent of Poirot and Hastings in the older adaptations.
No disappointment to be seen in the story here. The opening is really haunting and adeptly sets the tone for what was to come, while moving does not describe the ending enough, admittedly I get emotional easily but we're talking about getting-through-at-least-half-a-box-of-tissues quality here. Not only because it's so well done but also the fact that we are saying goodbye to a great series and an iconic detective. Above all, the mystery itself is incredibly compelling, the final solution is still ingenious and you are kept guessing and pleasantly surprised throughout, and the atmosphere/tone of the book is translated faithfully here in the adaptation. The direction wisely doesn't veer between being too theatrical or too low-key, instead the drama is allowed to resonate within the deliberate but never tedious pace while keeping the mystery alive.
David Suchet is the definitive Poirot and he hasn't disappointed in any of the episodes of the series. He always is impeccable, but while there is still a little twinkle in the eye and the brilliant mind he is genuinely moving here(Poirot has never been as affecting as here), a tour-De-force, both in how he says his line and physically. It's lovely to see Hugh Fraser again, his role of Hastings being much more substantial than it was to Big Four and it really shows in his performance. There are times where Fraser comes close to out-doing Suchet, there is much more emotion and dimension to what was seen with Hastings before and I'd go as far to say that Fraser gives his best performance of the series, though he and Suchet have always been a joy to watch. The acting is excellent from all, Aiden McArdle(one of the more interesting supporting characters, his mind games have a subtle twisted menace to them), Helen Baxendale, an appropriately sour-faced Anne Reid and beguiling Alice Orr-Ewing standing out.
Overall, a powerful swan-song and a wonderful final episode. As much-missed as this truly great series(one of the best of its kind actually) will be, at least there'll be re-runs and the box-sets, so we can revisit it still, it just won't be the same without not having a new episode to look forward to. And it will be criminal if Suchet doesn't get some award recognition for being such a large part of why the series is as good as it is. 9/10 Bethany Cox
"Agatha Christie's Poirot: Curtain: Poirot's Last Case" is so dark that its star, David Suchet, insisted it be shot out of sequence so that it would not be the last image of the role that he and fellow cast members would have. Yes, it's that dark and sometimes, disturbing. The great irony is that, in reality, it was shot just before Christmas. But you won't find any bright tinsel or warm carols or peace on earth here. The old-fashioned bright Technicolor colors and tongue-in-cheek humor of the central character, especially with his loyal friend and helpmate, Hastings (Hugh Fraser), so often on display in Suchet's "Poirot" films over the last quarter-century, are nowhere to be found. It soon becomes apparent, as it was in another installment of this last season, "Murder on the Orient Express," that Suchet himself is on a mission to set the record straight for his beloved character, and especially for Christie herself. In "Curtain," nearly all color has been drained from the pictures. It is a kind of "noir" in which shadows are far more important than splashes of color. And so it is with Suchet's "Poirot" here, and the plot that steals him away for all time. The plot finds an older, infirm Poirot wasting away at a dank old estate, Styles, where Poirot and Hastings have solved their first murder many years before. Hastings, recently widowed, has come to look in on his old friend, Poirot, who by now has a bad ticker and is wheelchair-bound. In the mix is Hastings' daughter (Alice Orr-Ewing), a headstrong and sometimes disrespectful lass who may also be in danger, and perhaps even a suspect, when three people die, apparently by suicide. To say much more would ruin the surprise, but it's clear from the get-go that Poirot will have to rely more than ever before on those "little gray cells" _ and on Hastings. To be sure, Fraser has never been better in the latter role, and again, one senses a deliberate decision to make him an extension of Poirot more than ever before. He has to do the leg work, literally. The finale might upset and even shock faithful "Poirot" fans who have become accustomed to the splashy, whimsical productions of past years. But it's a fascination to watch Suchet, who has read every shred of Christie's "Poirot" writings and become a sort of self-made scholar on the subject, use his full classically trained might in doing what he considers righting the ship before he lets the role go. That alone is worth the price of admission. American viewers will have to do some leg work of their own to see this episode. Masterpiece won't be carrying this finale, at least for now, for whatever reason _ it's to be found instead on the Acorn subscription service that features British dramas. Viewers who take that step also will be treated to a 45-minute question-and-answer featurette from when Suchet appeared in Beverly Hills to promote the series' last season, itself a wonderful tool in understanding and enjoying the entire Suchet-Poirot experience and the perfect companion to the PBS "making of" short about the series. Hats off to Suchet for making a brave decision about a role that took up a good portion of his career, and truth be told, his life.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*possible spoiler-not the murderer though* Firstly I am a huge fan, I have all the box sets and I often re-watch the episodes, I watched Curtain: Poirot's last case and I was not immediately taken by it, I thought it was good, quite a departure from the standard format but the more I reflected on it, the more I was drawn to well, the nostalgia of it, Poirot's last case, or more appropriately last act. Here we have an ailing Poirot, sometimes quite nasty and even unpleasant, mostly towards his closest ally Hastings, constantly in pain and in his final act he gives all he has left in his failing body to protect Hastings and his daughter from harm, not to mention many others. Where one is lead to believe he is treating Hastings badly he is really solidly behind his old friend. I was really not expecting this type of ending from Christie for Poirot but the more I reflect the more I think it was perfect.
All prior reviewers' comments regarding the script aside, the acting talents of David Suchet must be addressed here. There is only a small, select group of people that will have had the incredible opportunity to see what I have seen in the past few weeks. I watched this movie about two weeks after I saw David Suchet in "The Last Confession" on stage in Australia. In this move (Curtain), he plays an old, bloated (even fat), very ill man. One could truly believe he was on his last leg. However, just a few weeks ago (less than a year after this movie was made), I had the pleasure of seeing his performance in "The Last Confession". In this play, he was vital, animated, incredibly energetic, vibrant, extremely fit (even buff!), and nothing short of amazing. This is a testament to his amazing acting talent that he could go from being the character in this movie (Curtain), of course with a big nod to make-up, padding, etc., to the amazing character on stage I saw. I really didn't have a thorough appreciation of his acting chops until I saw him in this play.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The production is as great as it has always been. I also liked the
portrayal of the tattered house and the dark scenes, in line with bad
health of Poirot.
My complaint is that the way Poirot committed his own murder was not nearly half as smart as the murderers Poirot caught, even worse it was not plausible; even if we accept that Poirot would indeed commit such a crime. Of course, there is nothing the production team could do about it, if they were not to grossly deviate from the source. I suppose, Christie was really bored of Poirot and could not think of a better way of getting rid of him.
A disappointment overall, but not because of the team that produced the episode.
"Curtain" is the last of the Poirot stories, which means the end of
David Suchet's run as Poirot. To me, he will always be the definitive
Hastings, who has just lost his wife, is asked by Poirot to meet him at Styles, the site of a previous case thirty years earlier - their first.
Styles is now a guest house. Poirot's health is failing, and he is confined to a wheelchair, due to his arthritis and bad heart. But he still has all his marbles. He tells Hastings that there is a murderer on the premises, and he needs Hastings to be his eyes and ears. The people there include the owners, Daisy and Colonel Toby Luttrell, a spinster, Elizabeth Cole, an aristocrat, Sir William Boyd Carrington, a birdwatcher Stephen Norton, a womanizer, Major Allerton, a chemist Dr John Franklin and his wife Barbara, her nurse, Nurse Craven, and Dr. Franklin's lab assistant, who just happens to be Hastings' estranged daughter Judith. One of these people is a killer. But can Hastings take his attention off his daughter long enough to help Poirot find him or her?
Then the murders start. What does Poirot know? Can he solve his final case before his final curtain?
A dark mystery, but a good one, with Poirot's illness permeating the entire episode. The murder in the end is actually the McGuffin - the big story is that this is Poirot's last case. My big complaint is that Miss Lemon and Superintendent Japp were not brought back for the episode.
I know some people didn't like the turn this series took, and it's true, the seasons with Miss Lemon and Hastings were the best -- they had humor and lightness as well as mystery. But throughout all the seasons, there were always good episodes.
Will be missed.
As a reader of Dame AC for 76 years I always found HP difficult. For me, Suchet's triumph - genius - is in constructing a reality from an impossibility. As for Curtain, it is no surprise that the author delayed publication for 30 years, almost until after her death. Poirot and Hastings have aged beyond recognition and several devices in the novel would appear to be stolen from other stories except that it is actually the other way round. Chandler would probably have called it a reverse cannibalization. The author appears to have taken a strong dislike for her creation and takes her revenge not only on him but on Hastings too who is treated with contempt by both the detective and the daughter. I suspected what my impression would be and should have avoided seeing the production but my curiosity as to how Alice Orr-Ewing would portray Judith was too strong. Curiosity killed the cat.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hercule Poirot is ailing, and close to death. He travels to the estate
Styles to convalesce and invites his old friend Hastings to join him.
Styles has a nostalgic significance to Poirot as it was the location
for the first case that Poirot and Hastings solved together. Poirot's
reasons for calling Hastings down are not all about nostalgia or
farewells - he believes a murder is going to be committed and, being
unable to walk, he needs Hastings to be his eyes and ears. Hastings has
another interest in being there - his daughter, Judith works there, as
an assistant to chemist Dr Franklin. Sure enough, within a few days, Dr
Franklin's wife dies, poisoned. The inquest calls it suicide, but to
Hastings and Poirot it looks like murder. Problem is, the prime suspect
is Hastings' daughter...
The final Poirot, and probably the worst of all the Poirots, plot- wise. Poirot is completely out of character here. Always the one for high-mindedness, idealism, obeying Christian values and justice through the courts, here he becomes a vigilante and murderer. Even worse, his target is not a murderer, but merely a master-manipulator.
The other issue with this is the notion that you're not responsible for your own actions. If you murder someone but someone subtly manipulated you into doing it, it's their fault, not yours. What nonsense! (Though consistent with the sort of bs the media and many Facebook warriors trundle out regularly).
The only thing keeping this from being a very unsatisfactory end to the series is the emotional value. Quite sad to see Poirot in the state he's in. Nostalgic to see him reunited with Hastings, especially in the same place they first worked together.
The introduction of Hastings' daughter also adds an element of generational change and the passing of time.
Overall: Not terrible but Poirot deserves a better send-off than this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One has to be a brainless fan of Cristie and Poirot(in either the books
or series who are somewhat different) to enjoy this episode.
Episode is a faithful adaptation of the book in main story points, skillfully fitted to character of Poirot, with his blinkered morality, as developed in later 'darker' episodes of the series.
From moral point of view, lousy logic used by Poirot to justify his murdering, and absolving of other murderers who have freely chosen to commit crimes, testify to either severe deterioration of his much referenced 'little grey cells', or Cristie's ironic revenge after developing a strong dislike for her character's smug pseudo rationality. Adapters did point to rather hypocritical moral compass of Poirot in several of the later episodes, such as 'The Clocks'. However they never seem to have the courage to carry it through to the end in any of them, and always dropped the ball before exposing the absurdity of Poirot's moral pontificating. They succeeded better when there is a distance between Poirot and characters going through a murder induced moral crisis, as in 'The Murder on the Orient Express'.
Here too adapters fail to challenge Poirot's irrational murder. Nor do they leave the story at the superficial moral level Cristie displays in books. Unlike her, they raise the moral issues explicitly and seriously, but instead of confronting them in their complexity, they let Poirot getaway with absurdity.
By the way, adapters in later part of series tried to imply that Poirot's blinkered morality is due to his pious Catholicism. However some of his moral positions do not fit with the Catholic teachings. If he is confused it due to his brain being confused.
Actors were good in the episode, but unlike in almost all episodes in series, up to but not including final season, production design was bad.
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