Have said numerous times about being a huge Agatha Christie fan. That has been the case ever since the age of 11 after reading 'And Then There Were None' (still one of my favourite books) and watching the Joan Hickson and David Suchet adaptations of 'A Murder is Announced' and 'Sad Cypress'. 'Ordeal By Innocence' may not be one of her very best works, but it is an expertly crafted work with an ending that one does not expect, and one can see why she herself apparently thought highly of it.
While there are worse Agatha Christie adaptations (i.e. the 'Partners in Crime' series from a few years ago, 'The Alphabet Murders', the 1989 'Ten Little Indians' and the worst ITV Marple adaptations, so 'At Bertram's Hotel', 'A Sittaford Mystery' and 'Why Didn't They Ask Evans'), 'Ordeal By Innocence' was a disappointment. Of Sarah Phelps' Christie adaptations, it is the weakest having loved 'And Then There Were None' and being mixed on 'Witness for the Prosecution'. It is a shame that 'Ordeal By Innocence' is a great book, yet none of the adaptations do them justice. Don't know which is the best or worst because they are on the same level of disappointing though with different strengths and flaws, at a guess the ITV adaptation for best and the 1984 film worst.
It is not that as an overall whole that it is a poor adaptation of the book where my disappointment with 'Ordeal By Innocence' lies, not completely at least. It for me had far more issues on its own terms. The first part, of three, is definitely the best though it's still heavily flawed, it's mainly because of the opening sequence and that it is not quite as melodramatic or sluggish as the other episodes and didn't have an ending that felt like a slap in the face.
There are good things. The best thing about 'Ordeal By Innocence' is the production values. Gorgeously shot, sometimes imaginatively edited, sumptuously costumed, atmospherically lit and evocative in period detail with well chosen locations, visually it is exceptional.
Close behind was the way the episode started. The opening scene was utterly transfixing and looking away was impossible, one of the few instances in the adaptation where chills were sent down the spine and goose-bumps were on my arm.
Didn't think highly of the acting really, but Bill Nighy does underplay with dignity and is sometimes affecting, a perfect approach towards the character that one feels most for in the source material. It may come over as dull and like he was slumming it to some but that is only when comparing it to the rest of the acting, which had a jarringly broad approach, someone had to take things seriously as ought and Nighy does that. Morven Christie, looking luminous, and Luke Treadaway, quietly understated, also do very well.
On the other hand, the rest of the cast are either too broad or bland, the latter especially applying to Matthew Goode. Instead of feeling much for the characters and their plight which one is meant to considering that in the book there is more emphasis on the family ordeal, one is irritated by that most of them do not come over as real people and more stale archetypes, Rachel comes over as cartoonish.
Unfortunately, the mystery also doesn't engage. Although worse in the other two parts, one very quickly gets overblown melodramatic tone and a lack of tension and suspense. Some of the episode is padded out by self-indulgence, overlong scenes and repetition, making the not very long running time of the episode feel further over-stretched. The other two episodes though do this worse though.
Much of the dialogue feels soapy and ham-fisted, as well as being too jarring for the period. The music is too brashly orchestrated and intrudes far too much. Anything included to spice things up to seemingly bring more grit or appeal to a wider audience instead comes over as mean-spirited and out of kilter as well as gratuitous.
Summarising, the best of the three parts but could have been better. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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