THE WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, Julian Jarrold, director/RLJ Entertainment’s Acorn Given the success of the last Sarah Phelps Agatha Christie adaptation, And Then There Were None, it was inevitable that there would be a follow-up – and it was equally inevitable that the level of darkness freighted into that last adaptation would be matched. In the event, it is not only matched but even surpassed, as writer and director are doing their damnedest to make sure this is not the kind of cosy Christie which has provided many a Sunday evening with undemanding escapism. Phelps, Jarrold and their exemplary cast have other fish to fry though (it should be said) there are those who felt that the grimness is too heavily underlined. Given the success of the last Sarah Phelps Agatha Christie adaptation, And Then There Were None, it was inevitable that there would be a follow-up – and it was equally inevitable that the level of darkness freighted into that last adaptation would be matched. In the event, it is not only matched but even surpassed, as writer and director are doing their damnedest to make sure this is not the kind of cosy Christie which has provided many a Sunday evening with undemanding escapism. Phelps, Jarrold and their exemplary cast have other fish to fry though(it should. I920s London. Society figure Emily French (Kim Cattrall) has been found brutally murdered in her luxury townhouse. When a young, attractive chancer, Leonard Vole (Billy Howle), is accused of the crime, it seems like an open and shut case. His penniless solicitor, John Mayhew (Toby Jones), clings to the hope that Leonard’s wife Romaine (Andrea Riseborough), an enigmatic chorus girl, will provide the alibi that can save his life; but she soon proves to be a far from reliable witness. A Two By Christie DVD Box Set featuring The Witness For The Prosecution and And Then There Were None is also available.
MODUS, Various directors, Arrow This is the first adaptation to reach these shores of the work of Norwegian Crime Queen Anne Holt, and while Modus does not represent her more astringent books (those featuring the crippled lesbian detective Hannah Wilhelmsen), it is still a solid introduction to her work, even though there is really nothing here that viewers have not seen before. Nevertheless, the familiar elements have a certain adroitness here, with the central protagonist Melinda Kinnaman efficient and low key. As ex-minister of justice for her country, the forthright Anne Holt hardly paints a roseate country of Denmark’s urban areas and outer reaches in her novels; Her first book was published in 1993 and she has since developed two series: the Hanne Wilhelmsen series and the Johanne Vik series (as in Modus).
DON’T BREATHE, Fede Alvarez, director/Sony Blu-ray If you think you’ve seen virtually every thriller premise, think again. Fede Alvarez’s highly original film — which has more than its fair share of audience jolts — may utilise certain familiar elements but manages to come up with something bracingly fresh and unusual. In Don’t Breathe, a group of young burglars break into a house and discover that it’s the worst mistake of their lives. Sam Raimi is one of the producers here, and the leading star Jane Levy was in the recent remake of the director’s classic The Evil Dead. But while there is no supernatural element here, there are lashings of the kind of filmic acumen that distinguished Raimi’s film. What’s more, the careful distribution of culpability between the ostensible ‘heroes’ (one of whom is a particularly nasty – and stupid —piece of work, urinating on the carpets of the houses he is robbing) and the putative ‘villain’ (about which no reviewer should say much) gives the film a welcome and unsettling moral queasiness. Turn the lights down low, turn your home cinema sound up, and be prepared not to breathe.
THE BUREAU Various directors/Arrow With the recent success of the British le Carré adaptation The Night Manager, it’s instructive to see this low-key but compelling French version of an espionage thriller in which the individual details of spycraft are treated with intelligence and skill. The French political thriller The Bureau begins with the return of one of the DGSE’s top agents, Guillaume Debailly aka Malotru (Mathieu Kassovitz), after a six-year undercover mission in Syria, the department gets hit with a major crisis: An undercover agent goes mysteriously missing in Algeria. Additionally, The Bureau must also maintain a close eye on promising new recruit, Marina (Sara Giraudeau), who needs to complete a full test of her abilities before infiltrating Iranian nuclear activity. The many lives Malotru has led as an undercover agent are now beginning to haunt him. When he discovers Nadia (Zineb Triki), the love of his life is in Paris, he breaks The Bureau’s number one rule and secretly continues to live by his previous legend in order to reunite with her.