Ordeal By Innocence ★★★★☆
Starring: Bill Nighy, Anthony Boyle, Anna Chancellor, Morven Christie, Crystal Clarke, Christian Cooke, Alice Eve, Matthew Goode, Ella Purnell, Eleanor Tomlinson, Luke Treadaway
Creator: Sarah Phelps (Screenplay)
Humpo Show Rating | 8.0
Agatha Christie’s mysteries are proven to be timeless classics given the plethora of adaptations that have occurred in the decades since she wrote them. Recent adaptations include Kenneth Branagh’s big screen adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, and the BBC’s (Screenplay by Sarah Phelps) And There Were None and The Witness for the Prosecution (reviews are to come).
The 1950s provides the backdrop for this murder-mystery, where a wealthy heiress, Rachel Argyll, is murdered. Her son, Jack is arrested for the murder- despite his protestation that he is innocent- and as he awaits trial in prison, he is killed, supposedly at the hands of another prisoner. This is the opening set of circumstances that are shared with the viewers along with the fact that Rachel and her husband Leo (Bill Nighy), have adopted all five of their children as they could not have any of their own.
The next time we see the Argyll family is eighteen months later when the family are gearing up for a wedding. Leo is due to wed the family’s former secretary, Gwenda Vaughn (Alice Eve), when the family are paid a visit from a nervous man going by the name of Dr. Calgary, who claims to be Jack’s alibi on the night of the murder. His arrival brings the pair of murders to the fore for the family once again, and with it, no one is above suspicion when it becomes less clear who really did kill Rachel.
The BBC’s adaptation of Ordeal By Innocence is very much a dark and adult mystery that is taut and pithy, with strong performances from all of the cast, but none more so than Anthony Boyle as Jack Argyll. The character of Jack is so wonderfully complex and outgoing that he becomes the centre of attention whenever we see him. Every scene Jack and his mother have together were utterly engrossing, but he also had many other memorable moments with other characters, including the Chief Constable that demonstrated the nature of Jack’s personality.
Despite some confusing shifts in timeline and a host of unlikable characters, this whodunit is compelling viewing and the pace steadily increases as near the jaw-dropping conclusion. Ordeal By Innocence will have you hooked, and with some superb acting performances, a delectable mystery and the classic Christie air of “I have no idea who the murderer is!” makes it a fine miniseries.
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