A young woman is brutally murdered. Torn apart, apparently, by a vicious killer who murders and robs just for the fun of it. And Poirot holds himself to blame. After a trap to ensnare this dangerous criminal goes wrong, leading to the aforementioned young woman’s death, the famous Belgian detective becomes deeply depressed.
So begins this penultimate film – the last time we shall see Poirot acting as a mobile, self-sufficient entity investigating a crime. Next week we shall see him decline in the final instalment, Curtain. For the time being, Poirot is journeying to the Swiss mountains to track down a missing maid and put his guilt to rest.
Though it doesn’t have the bleak and jaw-dropping severity of the 2010 version of Murder on the Orient Express, this film is certainly more sombre in tone. Poirot is a more serious, cautious creature here, one who seems to know he is reaching the end of his days. David Suchet, as always, place the role beautifully, which will make the end very hard for us to face when it arrives next week.
For the most part this film is confined to the hotel where Poirot is staying. He and a group of guests (played by a bunch of recognisable TV actors, most notably Orla Brady and Simon Callow) are unable to leave. There has been an avalanche, affecting the running of the cable-car that climbs the mountain. Everyone is trapped in the hotel with a killer.
Though director Andy Wilson wisely avoids referencing The Shining too much, there is still something menacing about the atmosphere that surrounds these curious people cooped-up in a hotel due to the snow. Jeff Tesler’s production design is also sumptuous and offers an effective combination of pleasing vistas and claustrophobia-inducing interiors.
The story of this film is pretty good, though bears little resemblance to Christie’s book The Labours of Hercules. Like The Big Four (the film of which screened a couple of weeks ago), the book is a series of short stories connected together. ITV and writer Guy Andrews has stuck with one but has tried to bring in elements of others. It works a lot better than The Big Four and serves as a handsome and deliciously dark final hurrah for the series before we are ushered in for the final curtain-call next week.
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Labours of Hercules (2013) will be available to watch on ITV Player for a limited time. A DVD will be released this Christmas by ITV Studios Global Entertainment.