Robert Altman’s latest saga is a sprawling yet intimate upstairs/downstairs murder mystery set at a shooting party at an English manor in 1932, a story much concerned with subtle class warfare and how very nasty very proper people can be. But don’t see it for that. See it for the catty gossip, the cheap rich people, the flirting across class lines, the secret sex, the daggers stared across the dinner table, the servants as snobbish as their masters, the late-night skulking about the manse, the endless gourmet meals, the nouveau-riche American twits, the missing knives, and the bottles of household poisons everywhere.
Who here deserves to die? Who doesn’t? The list of potential victims — and potential murderers — is just about endless. This is the highest caliber of Masterpiece Theater cheese, politely seedy, deliciously droll, served up by a Anglophile’s dream cast: Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jeremy Northam, Stephen Fry, Alan Bates, Helen Mirren, Emily Watson, Derek Jacobi, Clive Owen… and that’s not the entire cast, not by a long shot. You’ll think you’ve died and gone to PBS heaven.