Ordeal by Innocence BBC1

Programme Name: Ordeal By Innocence - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Arthur Calgary (LUKE TREADAWAY), Rachel Argyll (ANNA CHANCELLOR), Leo Argyll (BILL NIGHY), Kirsten Lindstrom (MORVEN CHRISTIE) - (C) Mammoth Screen/ACL - Photographer: James Fisher/Joss Barratt

Shadowy figures – Arthur Calgary (Luke Treadaway), Rachel (Anna Chancellor), Leo (Bill Nighy), Kirsten Lindstrom (Morven Christie)

Lavish production for Agatha Christie’s dark mystery 

★★★½

BBC1, Easter Sunday, 1 April, 9pm

AGATHA CHRISTIE was the queen of intimate murder. Relationships that are too close for comfort and disturbing family secrets often lurk in her whodunits.

These elements always add up to killing that is up close and personal. Ordeal by Innocence is a classic of the genre.

This production was originally pulled from the Christmas schedule. An allegation of historic sexual assault against its then star Ed Westwick, which he has denied, caused the Beeb to withdraw the three-parter.

Ordeal by Innocence Mary (Eleanor Tomlinson), Supporting Artists - (C) Mammoth Screen/ACL - Photographer: James Fisher

Mary (Eleanor Tomlinson)

Christian Cook as Mickey

In stepped actor Christian Cooke to reshoot Westwick’s scenes, and here is the result. Cooke plays Mickey, one of the adopted children of dragon mother Rachel Argyll, who is murdered before the opening credits. It’s a key role and he portrays the damaged son well.

The story sweeps us along with little dialogue at first. It’s pacy, beautifully shot and gripping.

In addition to the tense relationships, Ordeal by Innocence has those other classic Christie ingredients – the big country house and homicidal motives galore.

Anna Chancellor as Rachel

Mickey and his step siblings – Mary, Tina, Jack and Hester – have had the misfortune to be raised by adoptive mum Rachel (Anna Chancellor). She is cold and manipulative.

Now grown, the children – plus housekeeper Kirsten – all seem ready to brain Rachel. Delinquent Jack (Anthony Boyle) is fingered for the crime, dying later in prison.

Eighteen months after the crime, a stranger appears at the family estate. Dr Arthur Calgary (Luke Treadaway) claims he gave Jack a lift in his car at the time Rachel was being killed. His assertion that Jack was innocent is not believed, though he still manages to unsettle the family.

Ordeal By Innocence - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Mickey Argyll (CHRISTIAN COOKE), Kirsten Lindstrom (MORVEN CHRISTIE) - (C) Mammoth Screen/ACL - Photographer: Joss Barratt

Mickey Argyll (Christian Cooke), Kirsten (Morven Christie)

As patriarch Leo Argyll prepares to marry his secretary – to the disapproval of Mary (Eleanor Tomlinson in fine bitchy form) – the tension builds brilliantly…

Ordeal by Innocence is a superior Christie adaption. It has a terrific cast and the characters have enough skeletons in various cupboards to keep things rattling along superbly.

State of Play — Killer TV No 18

B0007ZD6YK.02._SS400_SCLZZZZZZZ_V1118152570_BBC1, 2003

‘One of my officers was murdered. Don’t piss me about.’ DCI William Bell

David Morrissey, John Simm, Kelly Macdonald, Polly Walker, Bill Nighy, Philip Glenister, James McAvoy, Marc Warren

Identikit: When Sonia, a political aide, is killed on the London Tube, a newspaper starts an investigation that will lead to a conspiracy of political corruption and oil industry influence in the government.


logosWhat begins as two apparently unconnected deaths – one that appears drug-related, one of the young researcher of an MP, who falls under a Tube train – spirals into evidence of a conspiracy. As reporters played by Kelly Macdonald and John Simm investigate, they discover that not only was Stephen Collins, MP, the chairman of the energy Select Committee, having an affair with Sonia, his researcher, but that she had received a call from a murdered youth, who was gunned down in the street. Kelvin Stagg had stolen a briefcase and was attempting to sell it back to its owner when he and a passing courier were shot by a hit man. The murder of a detective watching over the recuperating courier rounds off the opening episode of one of the most pacy, exciting thrillers ever to be made for UK television. It was also ahead of its time in depicting the blagging used by our reporter heroes to harvest personal information from hospitals and phone records (years before Hackgate exposed the dirty, non-investigative side of it). David Morrissey is terrific as the unfaithful politician husband in turmoil, whose lover may have had more baggage than he ever imagined. Bill Nighy counterbalances Morrissey’s emotional performance with a razor-sharp turn as the cynical newspaper editor – ‘Either he [Collins] is faking it or he’s nobbing her.’ And he has many of the best lines – ‘Don’t kiss your own arse till you get us a name.’ And a pre-Life on Mars Philip Glenister plays a seriously intimidating detective chief inspector, showing just how powerful he can be in a straight role. His scenes with Nighy’s slippery editor are riveting. Oil industry obfuscation and corruption, human drama, wit, chases and intrigue – thrillingly directed by David Yates, who made several of the Harry Potter films – all go into making this a high point in UK crime drama. Written by one of the UK’s best writers, Paul Abbott (Shameless, Hit & Miss), the six-part thriller had superb dialogue, was politically caustic, and had a superlative British cast, one of the best ever assembled, many of whom have gone on to major successes in the US – Morrissey and Simm being particularly fine.

Sequel: the 2009 movie with Russell Crowe was decent but couldn’t resist Hollywood’s obsession with convoluted twist endings.

Classic episode: Each episode of this six-parter is engrossing, but the final episode ties the drama together brilliantly, with one final, oh-bloody-hell twitst.

Watercooler fact: The BBC wanted a sequel series, but apparently Paul Abbott, after working on a script, couldn’t make the story work. Which may be just as well – sequels rarely match an inspired original.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/stateofplay/

Turks & Caicos, BBC2, Bill Nighy, Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder PREVIEW

Winona Ryder and Bill Nighy in Turks & Caicos. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC2: Thursday, 20 March, 9pm

Story: Johnny Worricker is hiding out from MI5 in the West Indies, but an encounter with a CIA agent forces him into the company of some dubious American businessmen, as well as high-powered financial PR Melane Fall.

THIS IS the second of David Hare’s three films about the ex-intelligence agent Johnny Worricker, and it’s got an even starrier cast than the first, 2011’s Page Eight.

Perhaps Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder and Helena Bonham Carter were attracted by a shooting schedule in the Turks & Caicos Islands, the lush Caribbean setting for all manner of corruption in this thriller.

Or as Winona Ryder’s drunken, damaged PR woman Melanie Fall calls it, ‘That shitty little tax dodge

Christopher Walken

island.’ It is, of course, known as a offshore financial centre, and serves as a backdrop to the moral duplicity of the bankers and corporations who run our affairs.

Billy Nighy and Christopher Walken

But no doubt the cast were also attracted by Hare’s rich dialogue. Bill Nighy returns as the suave Worricker, now on the run from MI5 having displeased Prime Minister Ralph Fiennes in Page Eight. Turks & Caicos is his secret hideaway – until he is approached by a mysterious American, Curtis Pelissier, and his cover is blown.

If you need a mysterious American, Christopher Walken is the go-to guy. He livens things up by ruffling Johnny’s calmness, and then inviting him to an evening drink, where Johnny meets some shady New Jersey types and their PR woman, Melanie.

One of the businessmen turns up dead the next day, and Johnny, Curtis and Melanie are pitched into a

Rupert Graves and Bill Nighy

very dangerous intrigue that could see high-level people exposed as criminals. This is all while a big international gathering is arriving on the island of businessmen and politicians – including Johnny’s ex Margot (Helena Bonham Carter) and her shady boss, played by Rupert Graves.

Suspense without shootouts and corpses

What I felt about Turks & Caicos is that while it takes a decent shot at the machinations of international power elites, it lacks real anger at the fall-out from how governments and corporations misbehave. This is the elite end of the corruption – all very luxurious and almost seductive.

While there is tension, the film also has little feeling of danger to it. Johnny is too laid back to even break a sweat as the peril increases.

However, the dialogue is wry and the production wonderful to ogle at, while these star actors make

Helena Bonham Carter

their characters interesting and intriguing. Sir David Hare recently criticised the high body counts in crime/thriller TV and films, including the Scandinavian shows, and has said he wanted to restore some suspense in this trilogy without all the guns. The result is wordy but still enjoyable to watch.

Final part of the Worricker trilogy

Salting the Battlefield is the third film and will follow in a couple of weeks. Having shown the first part in 2011 it seems a little odd that the next two have been rushed out together two years down the line.

Is it my imagination or has the BBC been a little lacklustre in its support for Hare’s trilogy? It seems as though there has been little hoopla about what are prestigious productions with knockout casts.

Even Death in Paradise gets more of a fanfare.

Cast: Bill Nighy Johnny Worricker, Helena Bonham Carter Margot Tyrell, Rupert Graves Stirling Rogers, Winona Ryder Melanie Fall, Christopher Walken Curtis Pelissier, Dylan Baker Gary Bethwaite, Meredith Eaton Clare Clovis, Zach Grenier Dido Parsons, Julie Hewlett Natalie Helier, James Naughton Frank Church, Ewen Bremner Rollo Maverley, Ralph Fiennes Alec Beasley

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Page Eight with Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz BBC2 PREVIEW

Rachel Weisz and Bill Nighy. Pics: BBC/Heyday Films/Runaway Fridge/Carnival/NBC Universal

Rating ★★★★
BBC2 Sunday, 28 August, 9pm

Story: Johnny Worricker, an MI5 intelligence specialist, discovers that his best friend and boss, Benedict Baron, has died. The fall-out is that a dossier Benedict has left behind contains damaging information that could de-stabilise the security service – and perhaps the country.

The Beeb is chuffed that playwright and Oscar nominee David Hare has written and directed his first film in 20 years for them, and the result is a beautifully performed spy thriller with dialogue that rips along.

The terrific cast – headlined by Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes and Judy Davis – play characters with such sharp wits and hidden agendas about them that it’s almost like an episode of Yes, Minister at times.

Rachel Weisz as the beautiful neighbour
Bill Nighy is the centre of the storm as Johnny Worricker, a senior MI5 veteran with an ex-wife, a distant daughter and an illicit affair on the go. His boss and friend, Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon), circulates a top secret dossier that contains damaging information about our American allies and illegal torture victims around the world.

When Benedict dies suddenly, Johnny is left to deal with the dangerous repercussions of Benedict’s secretly sourced dossier. At the same time, Johnny is both intrigued by and suspicious of his beautiful next door neighbour, Nancy Pierpan (Rachel Weisz). ‘She was putting out the rubbish,’ he says of their first meeting. ‘Pretended it was a coincidence.’

Welcome to Johnny’s world, where a chance encounter with a delightful woman must be deemed suspicious. Trust is a recurring theme here. ‘Do you have any honest relationships?’ says Johnny’s daughter.

Michael Gambon – the smart, calculating MI5 boss
Amid the suspicions, there are many nice throwaway moments. ‘Mum always knows where you,’ Johnny’s daughter says early on. ‘Does she?’ he replies. ‘Paranormal is she?’

And Michael Gambon is a force of nature as the calculating, slightly cynical Benedict. ‘Things got so bad last night, I watched The X Factor.’

Elsewhere, Saskia Reeves is terrifically prickly as the Home Secretary, and Judy Davis is baleful as Johnny’s spiky MI5 colleague. It is after an ominous exchange with the latter that Johnny slips out of his job to dig for the truth about Benedict’s dossier.

Overtones of Tony Blair
Events can only take a fateful twist when a smiling Ralph Fiennes turns up as the Prime Minister. When an actor who specialises in characters such as Voldemort, Amon Goeth, Francis Dolarhyde and Hades appears, it could be time to start hissing.

There are heavy overtones of Tony Blair here, the former PM getting another fictional battering after Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer. And when the double-talk gets treacherous – ‘If it can’t be corroborated, it can’t be correct’ – events turn murky and vindictive.

Page Eight is a world away from much of today’s mainstream crime/thriller fare, such as the adrenaline rush of Spooks or frights of Luther. It is what David Hare calls a human drama, character strong, and he is apparently so intrigued by Johnny Worricker’s predicament that he’s working on two more films about him (the BBC originally wanted a series).

Can Johnny trust anyone, and can he act with integrity? Watching him try is engrossing and even fun at times – and the jazz soundtrack really swings. 

Cast: Ralph Fiennes Alec Beasley, Rachel Weisz Nancy, Felicity Jones Julianne Worricker, Bill Nighy Johnny Worricker, Michael Gambon Benedict Baron, Ewen Bremner Rollo Madeley, Judy Davis Tankard, Tom Hughes Ralph Wilson, Holly Aird Anna, Saskia Reeves Anthea Catcheside, Richard Lintern Max Vallance

• crime zapper •

• Two of Britain’s most watchable actors, John Simm and Jim Broadbent, have just started filming a new psychological thriller called Exile, created by Paul Abbott and written by Danny Brocklehurst (The Street, Sorted and Clocking Off). The drama, which is being filmed in Manchester, will unfold in three hour-long episodes and follows Tom (Simm) as he returns to his hometown to delve into the truth of events that occurred between him and his father, Sam (Broadbent). Tom is a journalist whose life and career are in ruins, and his once formidable father has Alzheimer’s, and is being cared for by Tom’s sister, Nancy (Olivia Coleman). Trying to prod his father’s failing memory, Tom wants to unearth what really happened 18 years before, only to uncover a devastating crime. The cracking cast is boosted by Shaun Dooley, Timothy West and Claire Goose. Paul Abbott has written some of the boldest and spikiest dramas on UK TV in recent years, including Shameless, State of Play and Touching Evil, and Exile promises to be a must-see drama. Abbott says, ‘Creating the series came from looking at the effect events have on families – and how that changes lives forever. Working with John [Simm] again is always a pleasure, he does seem to have turned into a muse of mine, and I’m delighted that we have the calibre of Jim [Broadbent] alongside him.’ Simm, who before appearing in the recent hit Life on Mars was excellent in State of Play, says, ‘Danny’s written a great script, it’s a wonderful cast, and I can’t wait to start work.’ Exile will go out on BBC1 next year.

• If you hate Mondays, Radio 4‘s Charles Paris mystery Murder in the Title should raise a grin. Bill Nighy returns as the waster actor-cum-sleuth. This is a lively and fun four-parter, and Nighy is appealingly reckless as the out-of-work thesp easily distracted by women and booze. When a small role in a terrible play in Rugland comes his way, his ‘semi-ex-wife’ Frances virtually boots him out of the door. Soon nasty accidents befall cast and crew, and ‘unprofessional’ Charles falls foul of the various pompous has-beens in the ensemble, before he is nearly stabbed through a canvas screen… Written by Jeremy Front from the novel by Simon Brett, Murder in the Title is on Monday, 22 Nov, at 11.30am. Or catch it on iPlayer.

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