Based the book “The Wheel Spins,” by Ethel Lina White.
Version: 2013, Masterpiece Theatre, starring Tuppence Middleton, Tom Hughes, Alex Jennings, Keeley Hawes
Genre: classic, romance, drama, intrigue, mystery
Plot Summary: Iris Carr is bored with her indulgent lifestyle. Traveling abroad in Europe via train, she meets a friendly English governess who helps her through a bit of illness. But when the older woman goes missing, Iris’ fellow travelers brush her off as insane. Is she really going batty, or is there something more sinister at work? With the help of handsome young Max Hare, the two attempt to solve the mystery.
My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that novel, –only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book. I was excited when I first learned Masterpiece was remaking this old Hitchcock classic. But I was also hesitant because I love the old one so much that I was convinced any newer version would not be able to hold a candle to it. As long as I went into it bearing this in mind, I decided to give it a try.
And I was pleasantly surprised!! My expectations that the story would seem hurried and squeezed into an hour and a half time frame were proved wrong. In fact, I was quite pleased to see they succeeded in creating good character development and background history for Iris. Although there were some acting quirks of Middleton’s that cropped up here and there (for example, continually rocking back and forth during intense, key scenes), she was able to hold my attention and play her frantic, desperate role believably. I do wish the script provided for making her seem a little more likable once in a while, but held her own during a full 90 min. movie full of suspense.
I was concerned about who would play her sidekick. In the Hitchcock version, Michael Redgrave plays Gilbert, a musicologist who has a thing for Iris. No one could replace him and in a way, this newer version didn’t try to. Yes, there is a male love interest for Iris, but we have him in the form of Max Hare, budding bridge builder, played by Tom Hughes. And I liked him. He’s not the witty Michael Redgrave, but he was a kindhearted boy-scout that gave warmth and stability to the story in an otherwise crazy series of events.
There is not really any scenes to be finicky about as far as having to fast forward it, in my opinion. Although I have to say, after only knowing each other for several hours, the intense kissing between Iris and Max seemed unnecessary.
Keeley Hawes was perfect in her appearance of a woman of mystery appearing with man whom everyone knows is not her husband. And adding Alex Jennings in as Max’s professor was a nice surprise, too.
One thing I appreciated observing in this version is an emphasis on Iris’ feeling of loneliness when everyone believes her to be crazy. An emotional blackmail assault of this magnitude with everyone around you, whether ill or well-intended would be enough to drive anyone really crazy! But Iris hangs in there and sticks it out. She never gives up on what she knows in her heart to be true. Quite admirable, and kudos to the actress.
There were several major differences between this version and Hitchcock’s that I was not expecting. There were also several new characters that were not in the older movie. Yes, the drama takes place on a train, and yes, Miss Froy goes missing. If you’ve seen the 1938 film adaptation and you’re thinking you know what happens next you’re mistaken, so this is not going to be predictable! I have no idea if this means it is closer to the original book or farther from it, but just going by this movie alone I actually enjoyed the changes.
I’m not sure I can 100% say I liked this better than Hitchcock’s. Maybe they’re on a par with me. But one thing made this newer version more fun to watch: all the colors, props, and costumes of a train from that time era were fun to see. I think the colors heightened the drama of the story.
My sister didn’t quite care for the ending, but I didn’t mind it. I thought leaving the ending sort of hanging was cute and appropriate! Although I would’ve liked to have seen what Iris decided to do with her life after the ordeal, like some evidence that she’d changed for the better.
Would I recommend this? Yes! Good work, Masterpiece!