A twist: why do we love these Agatha Christie-style investigations so much? – Cinema news

Director Tom George and his main actor Sam Rockwell evoke “Coup de théâtre”, a detective comedy that pays homage to Agatha Christie and her favorite genre.

Is it the global success of At loggerheads (311.6 million dollars in revenue for a budget of 40, and an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay)? The consequence of the revival initiated by Kenneth Branagh with The crime of the Orient Express then Death on the Nile ? A mere coincidence? Still, the whodunit, a detective sub-genre in which the challenge is to unmask the culprit of a crime who is among the characters, is enjoying a new lease of life on the small and big screen.

And Spectacular turn of events is both the latest example and one of the most emblematic. Because not content to allow Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan to investigate a murder, this detective comedy pays a fine tribute to the queen of whodunit, Agatha Christiebecause the case takes place in 1953, behind the scenes of his famous play “The Mousetrap”which has been played in London for 70 years now.

Fans of the genre will therefore be delighted, but novices will not be lost, as confirmed by us Tom Georgedirector of this very pleasant Coup de théâtre, in the company of its main actor Sam Rockwell.

AlloCiné: For a few years, the whodunit has been back in fashion, in cinema and on television. Why do we love these Agatha Christie investigations so much?

Tom George : There are several reasons, I think. For starters, these are brilliant stories that the audience can be immersed in, as the viewers and the investigator attempt to do the same thing, namely solve the case. As a director, you want the audience to be in tune with the point of view you are developing. And on a whodunit, a lot of the work is already done for you, because it asks them to play the same game as the detective involved in the plot, and that makes the stories more engaging. And, at the same time, there’s something satisfying about seeing the pieces of the puzzle come together. There is a mystery, but we know that it will eventually be solved. And that makes them satisfying.

Does it feel like reading an Agatha Christie novel when reading a script like this?

Sam Rockwell : A little yes. The storyline is a different type of animal, but I had a lot of fun with this one. Full of surprises.

What are the ingredients needed for a good whodunit?

Sam Rockwell: A good police investigation requires a false lead. A detective or two. And flamboyant characters.

Tom George: What is interesting in a whodunit is that revealing the culprit is not the most important ingredient, even if it is in the name of the genre [“whodunit” est la contraction de “who has done it”, soit “qui l’a fait” en français, ndlr]. It’s more a MacGuffin [prétexte au développement de l’histoire, ndlr] only the key to a good police investigation.

Whodunits are at their best when all the puzzle pieces are scattered and the characters are met. As a spectator, we then wonder who we can believe, who we can trust in this story. And it’s a good way to see characters under pressure, because they have to solve the case. Or are involved in the case. Or could become one of its victims. It’s a good breeding ground for drama, but also comedy.

The film is as much for people who like the whodunit as those who would not necessarily go to see this type of police investigation

You were talking about flamboyant characters Sam, and you seem to enjoy playing very expansive roles. Is it easier for you to create as a character when you can push the sliders like that and try things out?

Sam Rockwell: Yes, you want to push the envelope. Make sure it’s fresh. We turned to slapstick comedy, Inspector Clouseau style [issu de La Panthère rose, ndlr], while making sure it remains somewhat realistic. It was a delicate balance to strike.

How much does clothing, appearance, or in this case how your character moves, matter in your creation of a role?

Sam Rockwell: Its very important ! The hat, the coat and even the make-up. Hairstyle and mustache as well. The shoes. Everything counts to bring the character to life.

A twist why do we love these Agatha Christie style investigations

Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan lead the investigation

Since it takes place behind the scenes of one of his plays, I saw the film as a police investigation as much as a love letter to Agatha Christie.

Tom George: For me, the film is as much for people who like the whodunit as for those, I hope, who would not necessarily go to see this type of police investigation. If you’re a fan, you’ll love the gender references throughout the story. But it was important to me that Coup de théâtre also works without these elements. And the heart of the film is this association story and this character comedy about these mismatched characters who team up to solve the case.

Screenwriter Mark Chappell and I have talked a lot about how to put these elements together, so that a satisfactory story is born as such. And that extra layer, where the film is aware of the genre it belongs to and the tropes it takes on, is a bonus: if you understand the references, that’s great. Otherwise, don’t worry, you’ll be fine. (laughs)

We had to make sure the film worked as a thriller, but also as a very enjoyable comedy.

Does a film like this have to be rewritten a lot during editing? To remove clues that are too obvious, or to make sure to give some to the public?

Tom George: Yes, it is really part of the process. When designing a detective story like this, you have to choose carefully what information you give to the viewers: you want to give them enough, so that when the mystery takes shape, it’s enough for them to see the wires come together. But if you give too much, they’ll be ahead of the story and solve the case before the detective, so they’ll risk dropping out. You have to find the right balance.

At the level of the different tones also. Comedy and Thriller. Make sure they’re carefully tuned, because if you push the comedy too hard, you undermine the thrill, the stakes start to fall, you don’t take the case seriously, and you aren’t invested enough in the characters. And, at the same time, if you overemphasize the dramatic element, you stifle the comedy and lose its impact.

During the writing, filming and – above all – editing phases, we were well aware of the fact that we had to play with the sliders, in order to ensure that the film worked as a thriller, but also as a very enjoyable comedy. .

Interview by Maximilien Pierrette in Paris on August 31, 2022

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