The British have developed a well-earned reputation for crafting excellent period dramas. Whether it be film, television, live theatre or radio dramatization, this point is decisively driven home with the quality of each production presented.
The limited release of the Gilles Paquet-Brenner directed mystery crime drama "Crooked House," based on Christie's novel of the same title, saw Max Irons, Terence Stamp, Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson and Christina Hendricks breathe new life into Christie's characters.
"Crooked House," arguably one of Christie's most twisted tales, revolves around the death of business tycoon Aristide Leonides (Gino Picciano). Sophia de Haviland (Stefanie Martini), Leonides' granddaughter, engages spy-turned-private-detective Charles Hayward (Irons) to investigate her grandfather's murder before Scotland Yard can expose sinister family secrets best left buried.
If one is going to adapt well-written material, it goes without saying writers worthy of the task must be assigned the duty of coming up with either a screenplay, teleplay, stage play or radio play fitting of representing the source material. If the writers do not have the skills required to realize the task, there is little point in carrying the production forwards to completion. Fortunately, with Julian Fellowes and Tim Rose Price, screenplay duties were in good hands.
While Price is best known for his work on the 1997 Philippe Rousselot directed "The Serpent's Kiss" the name Fellowes has become synonymous with quality period drama. If there is any doubt, one would only need cast an eye over the writer's resume. As well as being the writer and creator of the ITV / Masterpiece Theatre series "Downton Abbey," in a career spanning almost four decades, Fellowes has penned the screenplays for several films, including "Gosford Park," "Vanity Fair," "The Young Victoria," "The Tourist" and "Romeo & Juliet."
Great drama requires source material that stands up to the test of time. There is a reason Agatha Christie's novels a continuously adapted to film, television, live theatre and radio. Christie's work is filled with ripe vibrant characters actors can apply their craft to and be much better for having done so.
While Irons was not the first actor I would have selected to play Christie's private detective, there is something to be said for being wrong. He turned in a marvellous performance.
Irons, best known for playing Lucius in the 2009 Oliver Parker directed thriller "Dorian Gray" and as Edward IV in the 2013 historical drama "The White Queen," is the son of English actor Jeremy Irons and Irish actress Sinéad Cusack.
Having worked on the 2011 Rodrigo García directed romance "Albert Nobbs" and the 2016 television mini-series "War & Peace," Close and Anderson, respectively, are not new to working on period dramas. With a wealth of experience, both actresses have proved time and again they are capable of bringing well-executed performances.
When producing a film such as "Crooked House," one needs to be mindful of the musical score. An inappropriate score could easily detract from the dramatic content. The score must add to the drama rather than be a distraction. Hugo de Chaire's work on both the 2012 Paul Kowalski directed drama short "Battersea" and the 2015 Andrew Martin written / directed science fiction horror drama "Capsule," provided he was the right person to compose the score for this Christie adaptation.
The cinematography, film editing, production design, art direction, set decoration and costume design, carried out by Sebastian Winterø, Peter Christelis, Simon Bowles, Sion Clarke, Rebecca Gillies and Colleen Kelsall, respectively, is exemplary. Each person, like the cogs of a grandfather clock, synced their work to the overall task, producing a film worthy of Christie's novel.