This is an atmospheric adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel with an all-star cast that does a very good job aesthetically, even though it gets a little over-the-top, but I’m not entirely sure the source material is quite as strong as it needs to be.
Like so many British TV movies, Crooked House gets the period aesthetic nearly perfect. (The only thing I really disagreed with was the swing dancing scene, which feels 20 years off.) And it is set in this beautiful old mansion – really multiple mansions posing as one – which is shot super atmospherically. (It’s over-the-top, actually, as the place is back-lit with red and green and it’s not exactly clear if that’s the crazy family doing that or they just went really over-the-top on the lighting for reasons I cannot figure out.)
And, as I mentioned above, the cast is rather incredible, especially for a TV movie. And everyone is very committed to their roles – a couple of them are clearly having fun but in this kind of movie that’s hardly a problem.
But though I did not guess the identity of the killer and the reveal was effective, I found the overall mystery kind of flat. It didn’t quite grab me initially like the other Agatha Christie type mysteries I’ve seen. A slow burn is sometimes a virtue, but it did take me a long time to be truly into the mystery of the film. For some reason, and I suspect it was the actual story and not the filming of that story, I just didn’t care which of these rich characters had killed the family patriarch. Once I was interested, I enjoyed it a lot more. I particularly enjoyed the quips about mystery cliches.
But the ending is a little over-the-top too, involving a ridiculous car-off-a-cliff explosion that I thought was eliminated from films 25 years ago. And the complete lack of denouement leaves you with the car explosion as basically the last thing on your mind, which leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
But I mostly enjoyed it.