Miniseries Ordeal by Innocence is available to stream on Amazon Prime beginning August 10th.
By Chris Flanagan
Amazon Prime’s new mini-series, Ordeal by Innocence, has all of the ingredients to generate something intriguing and entertaining during these summer months, but in the end, the result is something that falls short. An incredibly talented cast, Agatha Christie’s reliable source material, and a good script all are aspects that should produce a quality product and while Ordeal by Innocence does look the part its slowly drawn out storytelling based on three hour-long episodes did not help build on the suspense of the story but rather hinder it from ever being interesting.
Ordeal by Innocence follows the Argyle family as their matriarch, Rachel Argyle, is suspiciously murdered by someone within the family on Christmas Eve. All evidence points to Jack, the black sheep of the family, who is put in prison and is murdered before a trial could ever take place. Lingering suspicions from the Argyle family about Jack are heightened when several years later a witness who can provide an alibi for Jack arrives at the door. From there, the family begins to crumble into disarray as each character starts to point the finger towards the other siblings and it isn’t until the third act that we finally are shown who the killer is with an underwhelming reveal.
My issue with this mini-series does not lie with the direction, cast or the method of storytelling through three overly-long episodes, but rather the adaptation of Christie’s novel from page to screen. It is within this process that something is missing and it’s painfully noticeable onscreen as the story unfolds. The characters come across as uninteresting people that seemingly appear as decent human beings but further down are revealed to be irredeemable. That is, until the very end to which the story tries to do an abrupt turn and leave the viewer with a more positive feeling towards the family, but it isn’t successful. Each member of the Argyle family is deplorable in their own way, and because of this, the viewer is never able to fully emotionally connect to any of them which ultimately makes the entire story moot and not worthwhile for your time.
There are some decent moments within the three episodes. The cinematography, costume design and production design are very pleasing aesthetically. The score is memorable and conveys the ominous feeling of lies and murder, and still, they are not enough to elevate a stunted adaptation that hinders its actors rather than allowing them freedom within the material to make the script something more than recitation. I think of Ordeal By Innocence not for what it accomplished or even its minor successes, but rather the opportunities missed. All of this said, you still could do worse than this mini-series, and if you are a fan of any of these actors, it might be worth your time to give it a try.
I give Ordeal by Innocence a C+.