Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Aidan Gillen.
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: “Five Little Pigs” (2003)
Season 9: Episode 1
Directed by Paul Unwin
Written by Kevin Elyot (screenplay), Agatha Christie (novel)
If only Five Little Pigs had maintained the momentum of its attention-grabbing start this would be a very different review. When Lucy was seven, her father, Amyas (Gillen), an artist, was poisoned and her mother, Caroline (Rachael Stirling), hanged for the crime. The relatives Lucy was sent to live with in Canada never told her. Now fourteen years later, and forced to be told of her parents’ fate by an inheritance timed with her 21st birthday, Lucy (Aimee Mullins) sends for Belgium’s finest, Hercule Poirot (David Suchet), to solve the cold case and unearth the truth behind her father’s death, whatever the result.
In typical Poirot fashion, the case is designed where we hear multiple accounts of events from the perspective of different suspects. As an example of this format, Five Little Pigs feels manipulative in its timing of revelations and use of obvious devices. Starting with Lucy, existing to be the catalyst of the investigation, Marc Warren’s part is completely unnecessary beyond being the source of the murder weapon, poison. And of course there’s the signature Poirot gathering of the suspects, with false alarms aplenty before the real killer is divulged. Despite fulfilling the usual pattern of zoning in on one character, only to flip at the last minute, there is a surprise managed. The explanation for why the obvious culprit is a false lead is really clever and significant as more than a red herring.
Everyone brings their A-game but the female parts (Sophie Winkleman as Caroline’s sister, Angela; Julie Cox, as Amyas’ lover, Elsa) are written much stronger than the male ones across the board. Beyond the fact that she can’t share her story and is a suspect, there’s always something inaccessible about Caroline but Stirling makes you want to know what she’s thinking at all times.
As for Aidan Gillen, it’s tough playing the murder victim. He has more scenes than most victims do, as flashbacks are predominant, but the multiple points of view do his character no favors. Accounts are fairly consistent in drawing him as a flat stereotype of cheating, temperamental painter. Philip (Toby Stephens) is the most broken up by the loss of his best friend but in the end his version of Amyas is no different. The best flashbacks are from Elsa’s perspective, where we finally see a character with some potential for depth. Gillen plays this extra shading for all its worth. Without excusing their affair, we learn he sent Elsa away for a time and these scenes show a man more torn by and concerned about his marriage than any other depiction. It’s subtle but feels huge in light of how monotonous other portraits of him are.
Verdict: Better Left Buried
As an Agatha Christie mystery, Five Little Pigs was not my favorite. Filler characters outnumber the standout ones, and as a showcase of Aidan Gillen’s talents, this is not what I would point to.
Check back tomorrow for a look at Aidan Gillen’s performance in a film about living with grief and loss while surrounded by violence.”