Review / ‘Crooked House’ (PG) *** and a half

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WHEN I saw that Julian Fellowes had adapted Agatha Christie’s 1949 novel for filming, great expectations suffused me, because few if any writers equal him in describing the rarefied environment of the English upper crust – think “Downton Abbey” and his Oscar-winning “Gosford Park”.

Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner has engaged a fine ensemble cast to perform this story of money, malice and murder, filmed in selected great English country houses. Leading the pack is Max Irons as Charles, wartime intelligence agent, later a diplomat serving in Cairo, now a private detective engaged by Chief Inspector Taverner of Scotland Yard (Terence Stamp) to investigate the death of Greek tycoon Leonides without attracting the attention of the press thereby intruding on the family’s privacy.

And what a family they are! You won’t be disappointed, especially by Glenn Close as the sister of the dead man’s first wife. Stefanie Martini plays his granddaughter Sophia with whom, by the merest of coincidences, Charles had an affair in Cairo. Ugly, precocious, intelligent and obsessed with detective stories, Josephine (13-year-old Honor Kneafsey giving a cracker of a performance) spies on the rest of the household and lets everyone know that she is writing down her observations in a secret notebook. And there’s a big scrunch of others rocking the boat.

It’s said that “Crooked House” ranked high in Christie’s list of personal favourites, complex, populated by folk pursuing personal agendas, packed with conflict, writhing around a great set of tensions.

And the beautiful cherry-red car that Charles drives is a Bristol 405, the only four-door model the company ever built.

At all cinemas.

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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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