Agatha Christie's The Witness for the Prosecution

7.01 h 57 min2017NR
1920s London. A murder, brutal and bloodthirsty, has stained the plush carpets of a handsome London townhouse. The victim is the glamorous and rich Emily French. All the evidence points to Leonard Vole, a young chancer to whom the heiress left her vast fortune and who ruthlessly took her life. At least, this is the story that Emily's dedicated housekeeper Janet Mackenzie stands by in court.
Julian Jarrold
Andrea RiseboroughMonica DolanBilly Howle
English [CC]
Audio languages

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Supporting actors
Kim Cattrall
Agatha Christie Limited
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3.9 out of 5 stars

182 global ratings

  1. 52% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 16% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 14% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 7% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 11% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

FrancineReviewed in the United States on September 12, 2018
3.0 out of 5 stars
Heavy handed, like a deleted scenes meets The Talented Mr Ripley
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I think this movie deserves a 3 because the performances are very strong. If this weren't supposed to be Christie's story, I might even give it higher marks. But, alas, having read the original and seen the classic 1957 film, I can't see this version as anything but a disappointment.

The strength of Christie's stories -- and her writing -- is that she is startling. She weaves intricate patterns of evil in bright places with charming, amiable people. And she does it in tightly woven plotting with no extras. This movie seems to be a collection of all the scenes Christie deliberately left out because they added nothing to the story. In the original short story "Little Mr. Mayhern" has no romantic attachment. He isn't ill. That was added in the 1957 film and used as a comic device rather than as the bleak melodrama we must endure here. This version also puts everyone's inner darkness right on the surface, so there's no complexity, nothing startling. Current remakes of Christie's work all seem to fall into this same trap. So if you like other remakes of recent years, you'll like this one.
14 people found this helpful
Michael MikowskiReviewed in the United States on May 6, 2017
3.0 out of 5 stars
Worth watching but merely OK
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Remakes of Agatha Christie classics are always difficult. While the Hercule Poirot mysteries with David Suchet were stellar, the re-tellings of the Poirot movies were never as successful as the standards. Particularly disappointing was the Suchet version of Murder on the Orient Express. It altered the point of view and tone in such a manner as to deprive it of any sparkle, with which the Sydney Lumet movie abounded!

I have not read the original short story of Witness, which was published in 1925. Christie wrote a play in 1953, which was the basis of the classic 1957 film with Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power. This Witness uses the 1925 short story as its basis but, unfortunately, is Agatha Christie filtered through Charles Dickens. The tone and settings were morosely reminiscent of Bleak House. Enormous amounts of time and dramatic energy are wasted on subplots that illuminate nothing except the director's desire to differentiate this production. Toby Jones gives a marvelous performance as a character who is a footnote in the play and 1957 movie. Unfortunately, the character proves to be the most deluded person in the drama. The climactic moment proceeds so slowly, I thought they'd given up on it. As a result, there is none of the marvelous drama of the final moments of the 1957 film.

The Wikipedia disambiguation entry for Witness states: "In August 2016, Variety Magazine reported that Ben Affleck is in talks with Fox to direct and star in a remake of Witness for the Prosecution. Christopher Keyser will write the script, and Affleck will produce with Matt Damon, Jennifer Todd and the Agatha Christie estate." I hope this is true, as I suspect it will be quite superior to this production.
13 people found this helpful
A. SpellerReviewed in the United States on March 21, 2019
1.0 out of 5 stars
“ A depraved abomination” is right. Disgusting and an insult to the book!
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If I could give zero stars I absolutely would. This movie is disgusting and lurid. There were so many scenes that were not in the book at all and the sex scenes were inaccurate at best and disgusting at worst. If they had simply remade the story it would’ve been just ok. But instead they added a lot of garbage for no good reason. And the filming of this movie looks like somebody was blowing yellow smoke and every single scene. No wonder the main character kept annoyingly coughing during the entire movie ( even while having sex with his elderly wife...So vile) . I cannot say enough how bad this movie is.
10 people found this helpful
Cheryl K.Reviewed in the United States on March 15, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Brilliantly cast and acted
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I know many Agatha Christie fans have panned this because it is dark, and doesn't exactly follow the story. However, I think you need to remember that this was based from a 23 page short story. It was never one of her full length novels. Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King was also a short story originally, and was fleshed out to a full length movie script. If you're going to take 23 pages and turn it into a movie that lasts for 90 minutes, it's common sense something must be added.

Having said that, I am a huge Agatha Christie fan, and have been for forty years. I have read each of her books at least once, and listened to each audiobook as well. I believe I have watched every Miss Marple episode starring Joan Hickson, who was Agatha Christie's personal choice for Miss Marple, and every David Suchet episode as Hercule Poirot. So, I can relate to wanting the script to match the book. I do not like the revisions they have done on many of her books in recent years. All they usually do is take out many of her tightly written, brilliant scenes and replace them with grittiness, extraneous violence and sex, and ruin much of what made the book great. So, I usually don't watch the remakes through to the end. I normally get disgusted within the first 30 minutes, and give up.

This movie is different. While it's true they did add a love interest for the defense attorney, and add in additional characters which were not in the short story, everything they added was in keeping with the way the characters in the short story would have behaved. There is nothing added that really changes the outcome of the plot. All they have done is taken the characters that Agatha Christie invented, and flesh out what the story might have looked like if it had been 300 pages, rather than 23. Granted, I don't think Agatha Christie would have had Ms. Heilger saying " You f@#$ men". But she quite likely would have her say "You bloody men", which from what I understand comes out to about the same thing.

The movie is brilliantly cast, and acted. The characters are so well drawn and convincing that you almost feel that you are watching real events, and a real trial. The cinematography and lighting, and costume design were wonderful. It looked like you were really watching something filmed in the art deco age. So, ignore the negative reviews. Even if you read the story and loved it this is not your typical remake where the only thing left of the book is the names of the characters. It is true to the story, both in the way the characters are presented and the era is portrayed. Yes, there were things added, but if there hadn't been, the characters would have been two dimensional. I gave it 5 stars, and I think it deserved 5 stars.
4 people found this helpful
Amy WilsonReviewed in the United States on May 26, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
In the spirit of the play and the actual classic film, this is NOT
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More and more, I hear defenses of adaptations that considerably differ from the source material, as if making substantial changes to characterization - including personality and motives - and to plot elements is somehow justifiable in the name of translating a story from one medium to another. In the case of WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, I don't mind being dismissed as a purist because I found the changes not only unnecessary but seriously detracting from the original works - the earlier, classic B&W film, the antecedent play, take your pick. Here, not only was the ending completely different (and naturally the motives as well), but the story was framed differently to being almost completely about the dysfunctional relationship of the main barrister and his wife. I know that it's almost impossible to tell a decent story these days without sex scenes - but middle-aged-people-sex scenes? Really? Good job with the realism, BBC. In the original stories, the barrister was supposed to serve as an audience avatar of sorts - part of the intrigue of the story is that we don't know much about the characters, so what the dialogue reveals is what we know - if that makes sense. But this adaptation has more in common with a prime time soap than with a courtroom-based murder mystery. And I guess that's my main point: the original play (and its adaptation) made the dialogue the star and the mystery the main focus. This is more interested in being a drama - a deconstruction of all the characters. It's too tragedian, and that's not what the original story was about. Good adaptations retain the integrity of the story and find different ways to frame or present the story. This is more interested in telling something different. And all the while, very dark, and ugly, and unpleasant. That's not what Agatha Christie was. Even "And Then There Were None" (the most recent adaption) is a mirthful country picnic compared to this dreary, boring mess. The only reason I'm giving it 2 stars instead of 1 is because of Andrea Risenbough's rather stand-out performance.
MimzyReviewed in the United States on September 1, 2018
1.0 out of 5 stars
Not Agatha Christie as I've ever known her!
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This version of Agatha Christie's story is lurid and disgustingly sensational, more like a true crime story the likes of which I would never be interested in reading or watching.
10 people found this helpful
Kindle CustomerReviewed in the United States on November 28, 2019
1.0 out of 5 stars
Absolutely Dreadful! I Want My Money Back!
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This has to be one of the WORST movies that I've ever seen. Almost all of the scenes were dark and dingy - like they were filmed in sepia only worse. The actors seemed to mumble their lines at times and there was no continuity. The story didn't evolve so much so as it morphed from one nightmarish scene to the next.

I bought this version of Agatha Christie's mystery because I had seen the great film made of the same story with Charles Laughton. The two bore no relation to each other. The earlier film was exciting, full of drama and well acted. This film was vague and dark and the acting was dreadful. Save you money and your time. Give this one a pass.
2 people found this helpful
Hilary HolzReviewed in the United States on May 24, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
A complex, richly layered adaptation.
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Because I approach each new adaptation of a work with as few preconceptions as possible, I find that I thoroughly enjoy many productions that critics trash, quite a few of which later come to be highly regarded.

I truly enjoyed this production, staying engaged throughout. Notable to me were: the many fine performances, especially Toby Jones (Mayhew) and Andrea Riseborough (Heilger); highly evocative sets which become an additional character of their own; and one of the most effective jobs of carrying over the immediacy of the aftermath of WWI I've seen to date.

Two issues prevented me from giving this production a fifth star. First, the pacing was a bit off. Note that this production was originally two episodes rather than a movie. The pacing was probably better as two episodes but still problematic. Second, and a larger concern, was Monica Dolan as Janet McIntyre. She verged on being awful, preventing the viewer from ever fully loosing themselves in the story.
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