TV film review: Marple: Ordeal by Innocence (2007), directed by Moira Armstrong
Set in the murderous world of Miss Jane Marple (Geraldine McEwan), we meet a family in turmoil. Leo (Denis Lawson) and Rachel (Jane Seymour) Argyle have a number of now grown-up adoptive children (Bryan Dick, Gugu Mbatha Raw, Stephanie Leonidas, Tom Riley, Lisa Stansfield). One of the children, Jacko (Burn Gorman), is constantly in debt, and asks his mother for more money. She has had enough of his begging and refuses. Jacko, heard by everyone, threatens to kill her.
Later that night, guess who’s murdered?
Jacko gets the blame, of course, and even though he swears he has an alibi – a man from whom he hitched a lift – the alibi cannot be proven, and he is hanged.
A couple of years later, Leo is about to marry his secretary Gwenda (Juliet Stevenson), an old friend of Miss Marple’s, and that’s what brings the old super sleuth to the island where the Argyles live. Their game of charades is rudely interrupted by a man, Dr. Arthur Calgary (Julian Rhind-Tutt), who has just returned from a two-year stint on one of the polar ice caps, only to discover he was the missing puzzle piece – the man who could have proven Jacko’s alibi, if he had known about it.
Jacko was innocent all along, which means there’s still a murderer on the loose …
Also starring Richard Armitage as Philip Durrant (spouse of Mary Argyle), and Alison Steadman as the Argyles’ foreign housekeeper Kirsten Lindstrom.
From what I’ve gathered, this adaptation is very different from the book on which it was based, but even though I had a period in my teens where I read everything by Agatha Christie my local library could provide, that was a long time ago, and I don’t remember the books in much detail. Couldn’t say if I’ve read this one or not, to be honest, but it doesn’t really matter. It stars Miss Marple, and that’s incentive enough.
As you’d expect from an Agatha Christie murder mystery, there is more than one murder, and everyone is equally suspect, until the final reveal comes along. Perhaps not the most unexpected culprit, but still, it keeps you guessing.
Very enjoyable performances all around, from the distraught patriarch to bitter, wheelchair-bound spouses and love-struck secretaries … and of course, Miss Marple. Like Jessica Fletcher, whenever Miss Marple shows up in town, you should pack your bags and go, before you’re either murdered or become a murder suspect. Perhaps more disturbing is the two ladies’ lack of being at all surprised or horrified by how they seem to attract these crimes!
I enjoy a good crime mystery, but overall, this one feels rather bland. If it wasn’t for having seen it about three times now (I had to re-watch it recently in order to figure out what to write in this review, which says a lot), I wouldn’t have remembered it at all. It’s all a bit samey, you know?
If it wasn’t for Richard Armitage, I probably wouldn’t have watched it all the way through. His sneering, scheming character was … well, if he wasn’t played by Richard Armitage, I wouldn’t have given a stuff. The wheelchair was a novel idea, though. Shows the man can be badass even without the use of his legs!
The wide-eyed would-be bride didn’t really interest me, nor did the pushover Leo. Jacko could’ve been interesting but was killed off shortly after take-off, so to speak, and the only other bit of interest was that Hester reminded me a little of Helena Bonham-Carter. Ohh yes, and the bumbling, socially awkward doctor – I liked him.
But Ordeal by Innocence … meh. Not bad, but not particularly good either. A bland 3 out of 5 motorcycles.