Review: Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Labours of Hercules ★★★★☆

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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.

 

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

9 Comments

  1. avatar
    Peter Titshall on

    For me, this was the most disappointing Poirot since Murder On The Orient Express. I’m a huge fan of Agatha Christie & I hate to say it, but I am glad the series is ending next week as it seems to be spiralling downhill at an alarming rate and I would rather remember the classics that have been before. David Suchet will, of course, always be the definitive Poirot for me and thank him for bringing almost all the Poirot stories to the small screen

  2. avatar

    I thought this and the other 2 already shown were absolutely DIRE but this was easily the worst. I stuck it for about 10 minutes and then went and did things in the kitchen, popping back now and again to see what happened in the end. Apart from finishing the set I can’t think why the otherwise astute David Suchet would be involved with this rubbish. The thing that really drove me out of the room – I could have put up perhaps with the turgid direction – was the dreadful, intrusive music which should have been “background” but was very much to the fore making it difficult to hear the mumbled dialogue. I was looking forward to these last 4 stories but, unless Curtain retrieves the Poirot reputation, which judging by these three travesties I doubt, it will be sad that the otherwise wonderful series will be wound up with these pathetic offerings. Even David Jason can hardly save them. I’m wondering if the professional critics who have applaluded the series actually watched the episodes before they sent their critiques in. I somehow doubt it.

  3. avatar

    I have to agree with those who did not like this episode. The story, the setting, all feel quite like a parody of the Poirot novels or even of earlier adaptations. With the ridiculous undercover police officers, the sobbing heartbroken driver, the completely unrealistic swiss spa, the obvious ‘mysteries’, where Poirot seems to be the last to find out what is going on, all so far fetched and ludicrous. But it is of no surprise, waving these unrelated short stories into something digestible is probably the most ungrateful task the writers had to face (except maybe for the Big Four which alone is a horrendous story, one of Christie’s worst).
    At least one can console oneself with some enjoyable acting now and then…

  4. avatar

    I have to say I have been watching Agatha Christie’s Poirot for over 20 years and over this period of time poirot is always how I remember him – smug, devastatingly clever and emotional! And so are Christie’s plots. These last few stories from Christie’s books (lets not forget Elephants Can Remember) maybe have not been the genius plots that you have been used too but sometimes its not always about that. I thought this particular altered version of the Labours of Hercules was superbly portrayed and hugely enjoyable! Christie is the best and so is David Suchet as the great detective! Not David Jason!?!?!

    • avatar

      Not a great episode but cant complain as Poirot is my favourite fictional character. Looking forward to Curtains as my second favourite Christie book, then off to see Mousetrap the following day. What a great week.

  5. avatar

    I personally loved the attempt to psychoanalyze Poirot, the thematic cohesion, and the directing/scene choices that highlighted the inward nature of this take on The Labours of Hercules. This story was a test for Poirot, who has had an illustrious and LONG career. In it his abilities were tested by Marrascaud, but more importantly, and intriguingly, he was forced to critically examine his way of life, and come to terms with its consequences, such as the fact that he has not had a family. It was a quest for redemption that had more to do with Poirot’s mental state than external factors. The fact that post-opening it was entirely set within a claustrophobic Swiss hotel is not a coincidence.
    I enjoyed the conversations in the hotel, like that between Poirot and his old flame and her daughter, that shed light on the detective in ways he was not entirely comfortable with. The challenge to Poirot made it interesting.
    I agree that Poirot may have SEEMED a little slow on the uptake. However I always assume Poirot knows more than he says until the denouement. In addition he isn’t infallible and, as this episode implies, he is getting older. Lucinda’s bloody death in the first scene ways heavily on him, and his depression affects his abilities. Finally, the fact that the prime suspect, Alice, is Rossakof’s daughter, makes him reluctant to indict her until he has sure proof. In essence, his feelings for Rossakof, which are indicative of a larger self-assessment of the way Poirot has chosen to live, are something he has to deal with.

    Ultimately, it was great. Five stars.

  6. avatar

    Husband tapes this episode and the end was chopped off just as Poirot was about to “out” the murderer, can someone please tell me “who done it”?

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