Top critical review
8 people found this helpful
on 10 February 2010
This is rather a frustrating movie because I kept thinking that it could have been so much better than it actually is. 'Ordeal By Innocence' is one of the best of Agatha Christie's 'non-series' books - a dark and claustrophobic tale with interesting characters and that includes the victim, a complex and flawed woman but not entirely unsympathetic. This mid eighties adaptation manages to capture the rather dreary, ordinary setting. This is no celebration of the Devon coastline - the colour palette is muted, the weather harsh and inhospitable. I liked that the flashbacks were in black and white and the very 'real' feel of the whole thing. The cast is very good on the whole and arguably deserved a better script. They deliver what they have been given admirably. I am no great fan of Donald Sutherland but he makes a pretty good job of the idealistic Calgary, Christopher Plummer is very good as a rather frightening and harsh Leo Argyle and his household includes the elegant and cool Gwenda of Diana Quick and housekeeper Kirsten, very well portrayed by Annette Crosbie. Sarah Miles is fabulous but given too little to do as Mary and Ian McShane gets even less to do as Philip. The younger Argyles are all well acted too. Faye Dunaway is also very effective in flashback as Rachel although her accent wanders a bit (very American at the start turning to clipped English towards the end).
The script is OK - it follows the novel quite carefully (with a few changes) and does what it needs to do in order to tell the tale but its a little lacklustre at times and I kept wanting more! I wanted them to expand on Mary and Philip, I wanted Rachel to interact with all her children - showing her for what she was, I wanted to feel for all the family - not just Mickey and Tina. I wanted a clearer narrative line; it is terribly chopped about. I don't mind flashbacks but here its all done rather messily. Then there's the music! That's a very subjective thing; I'm not a lover of jazz and I found it inappropriate but also too invasive. I can appreciate however that there will also be those who love it.
So, an excellent cast, an atmospheric setting, an acceptable if unexciting script! Its worth watching and is a nice alternative to the more recent 'Marple' version. Still, it had the potential to be much better!