It's the early 1930s and a group of wealthy Britons and an American, along with their servants, all gather at an English country house for a shooting party. All goes along decently well enough until the host, Sir William McCordle is found murdered. From there the film explores the murder investigation from the perspectives of both the servants and the guests.
This is some really fun stuff. It's an ensemble darkly comedic whodunit murder mystery period piece, but it's also so much more than that. Yes, a murder is the film's centerpiece, but it's also a finely observed examination of the British class system and the upper class's dependency on servants. The film also touches upon the state of the British Empire during the interwar period, sexual mores of the time, and gay issues, primarily that of the questionable reltionship between the American film producer and his valet. I think that Agatha Christie style whodunits are just fine, but I really appreciated that this film was more than that and tried be entertaining but also provided some insight into the decline of the aristocratic way of life.
Robert Altman was a great choice for this, and the results are not disappointing, as this is a wonderful film and a great entry in his oeuvre. It's got all his trademarks, most notably the ensemble cast made up primarily (though not exclusivly) of a who's who's of actors and actressess from the U.K.
It took me a bit to get used to trying to keep the interconnectedness of all the players straight, but once I got the hang out it, I found myself thoroughly entertained. I did have to put the subtitles on, but that's no big thing. The script is quite sharp and filled with all sorts of fun twists, turns, and set ups for who did it and why. This is a rather lengthy film, but I really didn't seem to notice it all that much. Everything just cruises right along and all of the exposition is just juicy and fascinating stuff.
The cinematography, art direction, and set design are top notch, and the large cast put in some tremendous work. I especially enjoyed Maggie Smith, Kelly Macdonald, and Ryan Phillippe. Oh yeah, and Michael Gambon. He's great too.
You should really check this out. It's a fantastically done film that's super entertaining and oh so British. Hats way off.