Classic, oft-filmed Agatha Christie murder-mystery plops ten unfortunates on an isolated isle for some vague social gathering, then starts offing them one-by-one until ‘then there were none.’ But with no one else on the scene . . . whodunit? It’s an irresistible set-up (Quentin Tarantino pinched the idea for THE HATEFUL EIGHT/’15), but where previous versions play the material as black comedy or deadly farce, this BBC three-parter (Craig Viveiros/Basi Akppabio direction; Sarah Phelps script) takes the book seriously, perhaps too seriously. The first two parts work best, with an impressive physical production (great dark & stormy nights) and a wonderfully varied, pitch-perfect cast. Standouts include Douglas Booth as a stupendously rotten/ill-fated actor (no spoiler here, everyone’s ill-fated!); Aidan Turner steaming up the joint as a mercenary with no regrets (you’ll see why he’s in the James Bond replacement sweepstakes); and Burn Gorman (our beloved Guppy from BLEAK HOUSE/’05) as a cop with a taste for bashing ‘Nancy Boys.’* Plus, fans of the late Christopher Lee will delight in hearing Charles Dance pick up the mantle for doom-filled line readings. The last few twists, and the big reveal are a bit of an overheated tussle, but this is unusually strong Christie.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Speaking of unmentionable ‘trigger’ words, the book’s original U.K. title was TEN LITTLE NIGGERS, switched variously for Stateside publishing & film adaptations into TEN LITTLE INDIANS or AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. In this version, the poem that plots the murders has been defanged to Ten Little Soldier Boys. How long before that too needs to be sanitized?
LINK: Some swear by this relatively faithful Russian version; others can’t get past that peculiar style of indicative Russian acting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUntFahQUrE