TOWARDS ZERO (L'heure zéro) Is the updated French version of Agatha Christie's 1944 novel by François Caviglioli, Clémence De Bieville, Roland Duval and Nathalie Lafaurie as directed with style and panache by Pascal Thomas. Instead of England the action is transferred to the breathtaking beauty of Brittany, France. Not only does the magic of Christie's mystery remain intact, but it is enhanced by the significant rugged coastlines of the area (captured beautifully by cinematographer Renan Pollès) as the setting for the mansion overlooking the sea where the action takes place.
Guillaume Neuville (Melvil Poupard), the favored relative and heir to Aunt Camilla (Danielle Darrieux) who in her declining years lives in the Brittany estate under the care of Marie-Adeline ( Alessandra Martines) and her servants Heurtebise (Paul Menthe) and Emma (Valériane de Villeneuve) - the latter two making one of the finest comedy teams on film, comes to visit his aunt with his current wife Caroline (Laura Smet) while also inviting his mysterious former wife Aude (Chiara Mastroianni). Aunt Camilla favors the Aude, a fact that throws the tempestuous and obnoxious Caroline into tantrums. There is considerable background history of this family and friends that gradually all comes together in the end. But the incident that triggers the story is the murder of Aunt Camilla, an act that leaves nearly everyone in the full house as a suspect.
Enter Le commissaire Martin Bataille (François Morel), who goes about his investigation singing a tune created from the names of Agatha Christie's famous detectives - Hercule Poirot, Miss Marples, and, oddly, Colombo. The murder weapons are recreated, the events of the night of the murder are studied, and gradually the true murderer is uncovered in typical Christie style. There are many clues, versions, suppositions, old family secrets, current interrelationships and pointed facts that leave the audience wondering not only who the murderer is but also the motive of the crime.
It is a pleasure to watch the finest French actors (in addition to the ones mentioned the cast includes Clément Thomas, Xavier Thiam, Hervé Pierre and others) have a great time with this story and the sets, costumes, Brittany scenery, and the musical score by Reinhardt Wagner make this a delectable bonbon of a film. Grady Harp, January 11