I’ll be back with the next Movie Match-Up soon, but I just saw something that’s worth a review. BBC recently aired a three-episode adaptation of one of the greatest mystery novels of all time, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (previously Ten Little Indians, previously something even worse.) Sure, this is a book that has been adapted many times before, but not usually like this. Before we continue, there will be spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book, read it and come back. It will be worth your time.
And Then There Were None tells the tale of ten people, all lured to a desolate island for different reasons, some are promised vacation or a reunion with old friends, another a job. When they arrive, they find out the similarity between them—they are all responsible for someone’s death, but for one reason or another have gotten off the hook. They then begin to be killed, one-by-one.
Sure, Agatha Christie did not invent the now-stock mystery plot that is the premise here. Some would argue that it originates from 1930’s The Invisible Host, later adapted into the film The Ninth Guest, but the idea of a closed-off crime with a small list of suspects has been around forever, and this just takes it a bit farther. The reason And Then There Were None is the one we remember is that it does it so well.
There have been plenty of film adaptations prior to this, but none of the English-language ones are faithful to the book’s bleak ending. Like in the play version (written by Christie herself), Vera Claythorne and Philip Lombard fall in love and leave the island together. Well, in some versions it’s not really Lombard, but some guy pretending to be Lombard… the point is it’s a really shoehorned twist that makes no sense.
Finally, finally we get an English version that does the story right. (By the way, there is a Russian version that also keeps the ending if that interests you.) The 1945 film is probably the best of the changed adaptations, but even that was way too lighthearted. To be fair, it had to fit the Hays Code, but the final one-liner (Are the others ready too? You call them) really makes the plot out to be a bit of a joke.
Most of the characters in the 2015 series are even more unsympathetic than their book counterparts. When the novel’s General MacArthur discovered his wife was having an affair, he pulled a King David and sent her lover on a mission he would never survive. In the series, he kills him in cold blood. Similarly, Thomas and Ethel Rogers’ crime is upgraded from withholding medicine to smothering with a pillow. Thomas is also shown to be a domestic abuser, in addition to the emotional one he clearly is in the book. William Blore’s crime is changed from giving a false testimony to beating a homosexual criminal to death, with subtle hints being dropped that Blore himself is in the closet (Watch his interactions with both the perpetrator and Dr. Armstrong.).
The casting is spot-on, with every actor falling right into the character they are cast as. Most of these are actors you probably know from something, particularly the older ones. There’s Sam Neill from Jurassic Park as General MacArthur, Miranda Richardson as Emily Brent, and Charles Dance as Justice Wargrave. The lesser-known Maeve Dermody plays Vera Claythorne and Aidan Turner (Kili in The Hobbit trilogy) is Phillip Lombard. The one who manages to rise above the superb cast is Toby Stephens as Dr. Armstrong. Stephens, who while we’re at it is still the best Jay Gatsby ever on screen, plays Dr. Armstrong as a nervous man who is very remorseful for the intoxicated operation he performed that led to the death of a patient. While many of the other crimes have been upped, his remains the same, and this coupled with Stephens’ performance makes Armstrong the most sympathetic character.
While the 2015 series still shows more of Philip and Vera’s relationship than the book, it’s not sweet, but unsettling. Vera is clearly on the verge of insanity, seeing visions of the boy whose death she was responsible for, and Lombard clearly only cares about himself no matter the circumstance. Aidan Turner has a great gravelly voice that can be both charming and utterly evil at the same time.
I won’t give a blow-by-blow of how the story goes down, but if you like the dark and psychological elements of the original novel, you’ll be in for a treat. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I know I’ll be revisiting it multiple times in the future.