“The ABC Murders” is a 2019 television mini-series based on the novel of the same name by Agatha Christie. The series consists of three episodes and stars John Malkovich as the famous detective Hercule Poirot. The story follows a serial killer who goes by the name of ABC, who is on a killing spree targeting victims in alphabetical order. Here is a 1000-word review of the series.
The series opens with a sense of tension and unease as the viewer is introduced to a seemingly harmless, middle-aged man named Alexander Bonaparte Cust, played by Eamon Farren. He is walking down a street when he hears a ticking sound and starts to panic, only to find out that it is just a watch. This is the first hint that something is not quite right with him.
Soon, Poirot receives a letter from ABC, claiming responsibility for the murders and taunting Poirot with the next victim’s name. The race is on to catch the killer before he strikes again, and Poirot teams up with Inspector Crome, played by Rupert Grint, to solve the case.
John Malkovich’s portrayal of Poirot is a departure from the usual suave and polished image we are used to seeing in adaptations. Malkovich’s Poirot is gruff, irritable and prone to outbursts of anger. This may be jarring for fans of the character, but it does fit in with the story’s darker tone. Poirot is a man haunted by the atrocities he has seen in his long career, and Malkovich conveys this weariness well.
The supporting cast is strong, with Eamon Farren standing out as the disturbed and unsettling Cust. Shirley Henderson also puts in a great performance as the prim and proper Miss Arundell, who becomes a suspect in the case.
The pacing of the series is slow and deliberate, which may put off some viewers who are used to more action-packed crime dramas. However, the slow pace allows for the characters to be developed and the story to be explored in more depth. The series is a character study as much as it is a murder mystery, and it is fascinating to see how the characters’ motivations and pasts come into play in the investigation.
The production design is excellent, with attention to detail in the sets and costumes. The series is set in the 1930s, and the art deco style of the period is well represented. The use of sepia tones and muted colors give the series a sense of timelessness, as if the events could be happening in any era.
The series does deviate from the novel in some ways, most notably in the ending. Without giving away any spoilers, the ending of the series is more ambiguous and open-ended than the novel’s. Some viewers may find this unsatisfying, but it does fit in with the overall tone of the series.
One issue with the series is that it does feel a bit padded out. The three episodes are each around an hour long, but the story could have been told in two episodes. Some scenes feel unnecessary and could have been cut without affecting the story. This may be a result of trying to fill out the running time, or it may be an attempt to give the characters more screen time. Either way, it does result in some sluggish moments.
Overall, “The ABC Murders” is a well-made and atmospheric adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel. It may not be to everyone’s taste, with its slow pace and ambiguous ending, but for fans of the genre and the source material, it is definitely worth a watch. Malkovich’s portrayal of Poirot is a refreshing change, and the supporting cast is strong.