Crooked House is a thrilling murder mystery, a classic whodunnit based upon an Agatha Christie novel. The patriarch of the wealthy Leonides family dies suddenly in suspicious circumstances leading to an investigation. Like all the best Agatha Christie novels, everyone is a suspect. The murder could have been committed by anyone; each character has their own motive and opportunity. Who else better to solve the mystery than spy-turned-private-detective Charles Hayward (Max Irons)?
Charles is hired by Leonides’s faithful granddaughter Sophia (Stefanie Martini), who also happens to be his former lover. The coroner report has determined her grandfather’s cause of death is down to natural causes. However, Sophia suspects foul play. Irons has been cast perfectly for the role, an private detective out of his death yet fiercely determined to find the perpetrator. The onscreen romance between Charles and Sophia appears natural and unforced, the two characters share fantastic chemistry.
Honor Kneafsey puts in a very strong performance as Josephine, the youngest granddaughter. Despite Kneafsey’s young age, her portrayal of the spoilt yet intelligent little girl is mesmerising to watch and her character is arguably one of the strongest in the cast.
The film maintains a dark, mysterious tone throughout. A powerful soundtrack and scenes without dialogue create sequences with the perfect amount of suspense. It leaves the audience constantly guessing, constantly on the edge of their seats wondering who may fall victim to the killer next.
Like with any Agatha Christie novel, there is a certain amount of thinking and clue collecting to be done on the viewer’s part. Nothing is too obvious, which keeps things interesting. However, this may prove a bit too much hard work for viewers who expecting an easy watch. Although it’s another one of those whodunnits, the narrative is far from simple narrative: miss a vital clue and you won’t be able to piece together the rest of the puzzle later on. Crooked House is slow paced and requires most of your attention, so it’s not for those who struggle to maintain focus.
Playing the at-home detective may be tiresome for some, however, it does in fact draw the audience in. Trying to solve the mystery yourself makes you feel involved and part of the story. Once Crooked House has successfully grabbed your attention you will have no choice but to watch it till the end.
Could it have been the beautiful young wife set to inherit his entire fortune in the event of her husband’s death? Could it have been the son deemed a failure with no money of his own? Or perhaps the daughter-in-law with a background in chemistry and knowledge of how to make the perfect poison? These are all questions you’ll find yourself asking.
Crooked House is not overly predictable and has a good twist waiting for you at the end. It’s the sort of thing you might watch on a rainy day: it’s certainly worth doing so if you love a classic whodunnit.
Crooked House is available on DVD from 26th February.
Dir: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Pr: Joseph Abrams
Scr: Julian Fellowes, Tim Rose Price, Gilles Paquet-Brenner.
Starring: Christina Hendricks, Gillian Anderson, Stefanie Martini, Max Irons
Music by: Hugo de Chaire