L’Heure zéro

L'Heure zéroSynopsis: Set on the gorgeous French coast and expertly played by a superstar French cast including the luminous Chiara Mastroiani and super sexy Laura Smet, Towards Zero is an explosive mix of shocking family revelations and the kinds of plot twists and turns worthy of Christie’s finest mysteries. 

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L’Heure zéro 5.0

eyelights: the murder mystery.
eyesores: the amateurish performances. the inept staging. the awkward humour.

‘L’Heure zéro’ is a 2007 suspense film based on ‘Towards Zero’ by Agatha Christie. It was directed by Pascal Thomas, the same director who brought Tommy and Tuppence Beresford to the silver screen in ‘Mon petit doigt m’a dit…‘, ‘Le crime est notre affaire‘ and ‘Associés contre le crime…’.

But whereas the others were lighthearted romps that were co-written by Thomas (along with Clémence de Bieville, François Caviglioli and Nathalie Lafaurie), this one is a more straight-forward affair written by a different crew, and without Thomas’ involvement in any apparent way.

Another key difference is that, while the Beresford trilogy has a lovely and endearing duo to connect to, this one has an ensemble cast of non-actors who mostly play unpalatable characters; there are very few sympathetic people in this picture. It makes the film difficult to enjoy.

In fact, I found it damned near impossible to watch the first half of it, before inspector Martin Bataille arrives on the scene: the cast is so horrific that I winced at some of the performances. Laura Smet, in particular, was so bloody awful, so grating, that I wished that her character got knocked off.

Sadly, she didn’t.

But people do get knocked off – it is, after all, an Agatha Christie mystery.

‘L’Heure zéro’ takes us to the coastal manor of Camilla, who decides to invite her nephew Guillaume, Caroline, his current spouse, Aude, his ex-spouse, Fred, Aude’s lovelorn friend, and Thomas, Caroline’s lover. Clearly the old lady has a veritably twisted side to her. But it will have its consequences.

One of the consequences, aside from MURDER, is that we are forced to watch these @$$holes interact for the better part of three quarters of an hour before someone dies and Inspector Bataille is introduced. In the meantime we watch them bicker over trivialities, act out like spoiled children and sulk.

Yep, loads of fun for everyone.

The director’s touch doesn’t help much: for reasons that escape me, Thomas set up his scenes to look like theatre instead of cinema – bad theatre, given the f-ing performances. He also injected touches of humour in the form of the butler, the maid and the quarreling couple. Unfunny, misplaced, awkward humour.

In short, this motion picture looks and feels like a really crappy television production from the eighties; watching this devastatingly terrible picture made me wonder why anyone thought it would be a good idea to release it. Was it meant to be a TV movie, but, due to Thomas’ previous success, was dumped in cinemas?

Who the heck know… and who cares.

If not for the second half, which revolves around Inspector Bataille a bit more, as he tries to piece together the mystery before him, this would have been one of my least favourite films of the year. ‘L’Heure zéro’ has none of the charm, wit or even minimal competence of the Beresford films – or of any half-decent picture.

It’s really not worth one’s time.

Date of viewing: November 11, 2014

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