Agatha Christie’s Witness for The Prosecution, proves once again that the late, legendary mystery writer is the mistress of the curve ball, the unexpected, the complex, and the final jaw dropping twists and turns that draw us in just when we believe we have cleverly (but incorrectly) solved the killer’s identity.
Although this television miniseries adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic short story differs from the other films of the same title, it never fails to entertain and surprise.
Writer/producer Sarah Phelps and director Julian Jarrold immediately sets the movie’s atmosphere with the introduction of a foggy, French war torn landscape depicting deserted foxholes into which Leonard Vole jumps and waits for death. He turns and is surprised to see a woman’s face staring at him; it is Romaine, and she too is accepting that her death is also not far away.
As the story develops, the fog is the constant as the lives of Leonard (Billy Howle) and Romaine (Andrea Riseborough) intertwine. It’s a dark film, both visually and atmospherically, with the fog perhaps symbolising the mental mist that inhabits the minds of the players.
We are introduced to wealthy socialite Emily French (Kim Cattrall) who has a total disregard for any social etiquette, and flits from one young lover to another until she meets Leonard.
Emily’s housekeeper is horrified and disgusted with her mistress’s behaviour and sets out to make Leonard’s life as miserable as possible. When Emily is found dead in her room, her housekeeper is determined to see Leonard hang for the crime, regardless of whether he is innocent or guilty.
With the help of a lawyer Leonard has his day in court and the surprises begin. Romaine turns against Leonard, and Emily’s housekeeper spits her built up venom to the court. The psychological fog hovers as Leonard and his lawyer are enveloped in hopelessness until, in true Christie style, there is a ray of light and all is right with the world –or is it? The complexities of the story has one more delicious twist.
Another brilliant whodunit by Agatha Christie enhanced by a excellent cast.
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By Jonathan Mann