Detectives, spies and mysteries: 7 great British detective-style screenplays

22.05.2024Ksenia Batyshkina

May 22 is the birthday of the famous English writer - Arthur Conan Doyle - the author of the golden "classic" about Sherlock Holmes. The first story the future genius of detective wrote in childhood, and in his 28 years in 1887 the world saw the first adventures of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in the story "Etude in Crimson Tones". Few people know that in addition to his main series, Doyle tried himself in the genre of science fiction and humor and sometimes complained that the story of Holmes absorbed him so much that he can no longer write anything serious. Whatever dark thoughts may have overcome the writer, it is safe to say that without Sherlock and Watson, modern culture would have lost much. We pay tribute to the genre and share a selection of worthy screen adaptations of novels in the style of the English detective.

Screenplays based on Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sherlock, 2010-2017

This British series is a modern, partly free-wheeling but brilliant adaptation of Doyle’s original works. The show contains four seasons in total, with each season consisting of three and the most recent season consisting of four episodes. Each series is a stand-alone detective full-meter and at the same time part of one big story. Starring British artists and first rate stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the lead roles. The series was released on TV in 2010 and was completed in 2017, but it is still considered one of the most successful and the most popular picture about the sociopathic genius – Mr. Sherlock Holmes and his loyal partner and friend – John Watson.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, 2011.

Detective action movie from the master of the crime genre Guy Ritchie. “Game of Shadows” was a worthy sequel to the successful first installment released by the same director in 2009. The eccentric detective and his judicious, but no less gambling partner take on a new investigation – in different corners of Europe there are mysterious murders, which at first glance are unrelated to each other, Scotland Yard, as usual, makes wrong conclusions, and Vienna and Strasbourg is shaken by a series of terrorist attacks – shoulder to shoulder friends have to unravel the complex case and find out who is behind this chaos and a series of crimes.

On the screen, viewers will see the charismatic duo of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and an equally talented cast in supporting roles – Jared Harris, Eddie Marsan, Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry and Kelly Reilly. What to expect: quality entourage and stylish visuals, lots of humor and irony in Ritchie’s style, as well as his trademark slow motion photography contrasted with accelerated frame changes, dashingly twisted investigation and action until the very finale.

Screenplays by Ian Fleming.

Casino Royale, 2006.

The twenty-first film adaptation about Agent 007 is considered one of the most romantic and successful in the history of the Bond franchise. The movie, based on Fleming’s first novel Casino Royale, is also the debut of “the last of the Bonds” – Daniel Craig.

James Bond, who has just been promoted to “two zero’s,” is battling underworld financial genius Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). The action is set in the posh vistas of Montenegro and is accompanied by an abundance of expensive cars, beautiful women and luxurious outfits of the active characters. The main female role went to French actress Eva Green. She played the one woman who managed to melt the icy heart of a seasoned agent. What to expect: perfectly staged fights, flawless visuals, lots of action, spy intrigue, romance and a great soundtrack.

007: Skyfall, 2012.

Twenty-third Bond movie. The title role was played for the third time by Daniel Craig. This time 007 fights for the honor, reputation and safety of his boss M, who has been compromised by an intelligence leak with the names of British agents and the bombing of MI6 headquarters. But Bond himself has to prove that he is still fit for duty, because for a long time he was considered dead after he was wounded and went missing on one of the operations in Istanbul. Near the finale, Agent and M retreat to the Bond family estate in Scotland – “Skyfall” – hence the part’s title – in search of safety. The soundtrack to the movie by British singer Adele deserves special applause. The song Skyfall was honored with an Academy Award at the 2013 ceremony.

The movie was filmed in London (in Smithfield Market, Whitehall, outside the real MI6 building and other parts of the city), Scotland and China. In addition to Craig, such famous actors as Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ben Whishaw and others appear in the frame.

Screenplays based on Agatha Christie

Death on the Nile, 2020

Agatha Christie, like the previous two authors, is an iconic figure in the world of the British detective. And her “Death on the Nile” is one of the most famous works from the “Oriental cycle” about the adventures of the Belgian detective Poirot.

The screen adaptation is made by combining images from the original novel. However, viewers will still see a “gold standard Christie” detective. The events unfold on a luxury cruise ship where a mysterious murder occurs. A famous detective and master of his trade – Poirot, who decided to spend his well-deserved vacation, traveling along the Nile, finds himself in the thick of things by pure chance. But, of course, it is up to him to solve the main mystery and find the killer. The audience will be delighted by the hot landscapes of Egypt (many of which, however, were recreated with computer graphics), no less sultry (than the views of Egypt) Gal Gadot in one of the main roles and elegant outfits of the characters.

Appearing in the lead roles are: Kenneth Branagh (Poirot), the scandal-plagued Armie Hammer (Simon Doyle), “Sex Education” star Emma Mackie (Jacqueline de Belfort) and more.

Murder on the Orient Express, 2017.

Another adaptation of the famous writer’s work of the same name, but released a few years earlier than Death on the Nile.

This time Hercule Poirot solves a murder on one of Europe’s most luxurious trains. A famous detective who urgently needs to travel from Istanbul to the UK accidentally gets on the Orient Express. While the train makes a forced overnight stop due to bad weather (because it’s winter and blizzard outside), the detective sleeps peacefully in his compartment. In the morning he is informed that a murder has been committed. Starring a whole host of famous actors including Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Willem Defoe, Judi Dench, Olivia Colman, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad and Daisy Ridley.

Mick Herron’s screenplay

Slow Horses, 2022

A spy series about British intelligence agency MI5, based on the novels by British detective writer Mick Herron.

Ambitious agent Rivera Cartwright is exiled to Slow House after a failed mission. This is where all the boring paperwork gets dumped, and the cherry on the cake is the oppressive boss Jackson Lamb. One day the department is given a chance to prove itself again, and the team gets a chance: they have to investigate the kidnapping of a student by a far-right group, which turns out to be linked to Russian spies.

The oppressive boss was played by Oscar winner Gary Oldman. His hero is rude, slovenly, a lover of drink and saying to his subordinates everything he thinks about them. On the other hand is an experienced agent with a sharp mind and wit. Young agent Rivera Cartwright is played by Jack Lowden, known for his starring role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. 3 seasons have been filmed so far, with the creators planning to film more, also based on Herron’s books.

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