Crooked House, 2017.
Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner.
Starring Glenn Close, Terence Stamp, Max Irons, Gillian Anderson, Christina Hendricks, Stefanie Martini, Julian Sands, Honor Kneafsey, Christian McKay, and Amanda Abbington.
In Agatha Christie’s most twisted tale, a spy-turned-private-detective is lured by his former lover to catch her grandfather’s murderer before Scotland Yard exposes dark family secrets.
We all know Agatha Christie.
Her work is, of course, iconic. Christie’s books have sold over 2 billion copies in 44 languages; film adaptations stretch back as early as 1928. It’s difficult to argue she’s anything short of one of the defining authors of detective fiction.
What’s notable about Crooked House amongst Christie’s oeuvre, however, is that the story has never been adapted for the screen – until now.
This means that all the hallmarks and idiosyncrasies that define Christie’s work, the ones that we’ve become so familiar with, here feel slightly different. The stately home, the eccentric family, the mystery and intrigue – it all feels slightly subverted here, in fresh and unexpected ways. Indeed, the way the case unfolds is difficult to anticipate, keeping the audience in suspense to the last possible moment.
Crooked House follows the wealthy Leonides family, after the death of patriarch Aristide. Questions of just who will inherit his fortune drive the mystery, as one might expect, but it also becomes quickly clear that each member of the Leonides family is hiding something. Detective Charles Hayward is drawn into the case because of his personal connection with Sophia Leonides, fast becoming enmeshed within the intrigue of the case.
It’s a well-cast film, boasting several famous actors; they’re all clearly having a ball, throwing themselves into their roles and breathing life into the drama – Amanda Abbington especially is absolutely fantastic. In particular, though, it’s worth a word on Max Irons, who’s plays Detective Charles Hayward. Crooked House doesn’t feature either of Christie’s most famous two detectives, Miss Marple or Poirot; instead, it’s a character unique to this story.
Irons has something of a difficult job, then, to define Hayward, but it’s something he rises to admirably. It would have been easy for this character to feel like a fairly simplistic archetype, more a plot device than anything else. However, Irons largely avoids this, giving a great take on what could have been a very thankless role; it’s his interactions with the young Josephine Leonides (Honour Kneafsey), for example, that help give a sense of the character beyond his investigations.
Gilles Paquet-Brenner directs Crooked House well – it’s a confident piece of work, one that belies a keen understanding of just how to pitch the tone of a murder mystery at any given point. Paquet-Brenner benefits, too, from the film’s impressive production design; the direction does a great job of highlighting the faithful recreation of 1950s Britain, and the whole movie maintains a strong aesthetic throughout.
Ultimately, then, Crooked House is a worthy adaptation of a story that Christie herself termed one of her favourites. The ending is genuinely impactful – a final, poignant note to end on, one that guarantees this film will be remembered for some time even after the credits roll. It’s an excellent watch whether you’re a dedicated fan or not, and it’s not difficult to see this film becoming the definitive take on the Crooked House story.
Agatha Christie’s Crooked House will be available on DVD from 26th February.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★★ / Movie: ★★★★