“Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine.”
Ten strangers arrive on Soldier Island. They eat lobster soufflé, smoke cigars, exchange war stories and engage in an epic display of British snobbery. And then, just as the nursery rhyme that conveniently decorates the walls of their hosts’ mansion foreshadows, the strangers are poetically murdered. Based on the famous mystery novel, BBC’s miniseries “And Then There Were None” is one of the best literary screen adaptations of Agatha Christie’s work, beautifully capturing the nuances of her storytelling in a visual masterpiece that merits wild praise of its own.
Rarely is a work of visual media so powerfully enthralling that the present day, filled with all its glorious gadgets and distractions, disappears. Yet, the 1939 world of “And Then There Were None” masterfully takes precedence over real time. Simultaneously evoking conflicting emotions that millennials are rarely challenged to sort through, the three-part series is both tragically beautiful and hauntingly mesmerizing.
While BBC consistently produces breathtaking cinematic pieces, like “Downton Abbey” and “War and Peace,” their latest series surpasses even their own high standards. “And Then There Were None” employs a creativity in cinematography that introduces unexpected angles and lighting that sets itself apart from the network’s other series. Interspersed between BBC’s signature sweeping landscapes are shots that capture an image so intriguing and abstract that an early 20th century period drama becomes laced with an element of modernity. It’s shots like these, when the viewer finds himself gazing up from the ocean floor at a woman in a scarlet red bathing suit, the sunlight perfectly outlining her silhouette, that make “And Then There Were None” stand out as an artistic statement.
Adapting a renowned literary work runs the risk of sacrificing crucial nuances for plot. The complexity of Agatha Christie’s masterpiece, however, is preserved by the incredible performances of the cast members. Whether it be an overextended gaze or an off-putting smolder, the actors add personality and emotion to even the smallest moments. Each character is colored by a complex backstory, their secrets and lies slowly uncovered throughout the three installments.
Perfectly paced, the miniseries is captivating from beginning to end. Living through the camera, which takes on a personality of its own, the audience is simultaneously hunting and being hunted. Teetering on the line of horror, orchestral music climbing to uncomfortably eerie notes, “And Then There Were None” never allows for a moment of boredom. Each scene serves a purpose and no detail is accidentally unveiled. The thrilling momentum produces a surprise at every turn, but still allows time to capture longing looks and linger on the impeccable costuming and set design. You’re never comfortable, always on the edge of your seat, and constantly concocting crime theories.
And then, just when you think you’ve figured it all out, relishing in your astuteness and patting yourself on the back for outsmarting one of literature’s most brilliant murder mystery writers, the end leaves you completely dumbfounded.
“One little soldier boy left all alone;
He went and hanged himself,
And then there were None.”