Kind of like an Agatha Christie mystery crossed with Succession.
A classic text of English literature classes is handsomely brought to life in this screen translation of the still-radical play An Inspector Calls. The Birlings, a wealthy industrialist family thriving in 1912 England, have a cozy family celebration shattered by the arrival of a police inspector investigating the suicide of a young working-class woman. But that’s not the only bubble that’s burst: as Inspector Goole (David Thewlis) interviews the family — gradually revealing the part each played in forcing the woman to such a desperate state — he holds a mirror up to the casual cruelty and entitlement with which the Birlings move through the world. Part of what makes JB Priestley’s original play so enduring is how these characters are used as a wider metaphor for their social classes, and that translates with delicate but undeniable force here. A damning indictment of individualism and blind privilege on original publication in 1945, this is a story that retains the same relevance and power today.
Thewlis is a commanding and eerie presence here, deftly tapping into the supernatural undertones of his character’s name. His quietly imposing presence looms over the family in every scene; he has all the cosmic authority of an avenging angel — by far the most vital of the movie’s otherworldly touches, because it’s precisely the terrible awe he inspires that makes it so believable that the Birlings would incriminate themselves with such little prompting. It’s an expertly intense performance, bringing the power of the writing to life in a way that’s not easy to shake off.