Like the novel it’s based on, BBC’s adaptation of The Cuckoo’s Calling isn’t anything revolutionary, but it sure is a lot of fun. Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling is the first installment of BBC’s series of adaptations of Robert Galbraith’s (a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling) Cormoran Strike novels. Written by Ben Richards and directed by Michael Keillor, The Cuckoo’s Calling tells the story of Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke) and Robin Ellacott’s (Holliday Grainger) investigation into the death of Lula Landry (Elarica Johnson). After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Comormoran Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office. Then John Bristow (Leo Bill) walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man. (As always, spoilers follow)
When it comes to this adaptation, the biggest thing worth talking about is Tom Burke’s portrayal of Cormoran Strike, because it’s really the best aspect of the show. That’s not to say the show is bad or anything, on the contrary, it’s rather good, but Tom Burke is just the brightest part of the show. He is perfectly cast as Strike and his performance is just captivating to witness. He commands the screen with such utter ease, it’s honestly incredible. The really nice thing about his portrayal of Strike is that it feels a lot warmer than the Strike of the novels, but at the same time he still very much feels like he’s playing the same character that’s in the novels. It’s just the way Burke delivers the lines and the way his charisma shines through the screen that makes him so enthralling in this show.
Holliday Grainger is similarly good as Robin Ellacott. She’s not given nearly as much to do in these three episodes as Burke’s Strike is given, but she still manages to shine fairly brightly, too. Her chemistry with Strike is spot on, and she does wonders with giving Robin a third dimension that she’s really not written with in this adaptation. (The novel spends a lot more time with Robin than the show does, and as such, the show’s depiction of Robin is lacking. But Grainger does make up for that somewhat with her performance.) Unfortunately, her fiance, Matthew (Kerr Logan), is given even less to do, barely appearing in the three episodes that comprise this adaptation at all. It’s a shame since their home life does play some importance in the subsequent books in the series, and Matthew has had a total of about one minute of screen time thus far. But, such is life.
As for the show itself, it’s really good. Like the book, it doesn’t do anything particularly new or revolutionary with the genre, but it’s a very enjoyable and well put together mystery. If I had one complaint about the show, it’s that it doesn’t really do anything interesting visually. It does nothing to differentiate itself visually from every other detective show currently being made, and it’s a shame since most detective shows right now aren’t about a one-legged ex-soldier who’s now a private detective. The premise is at least unique and interesting, but the visuals don’t offer anything that matches the uniqueness of the writing. That being said, it’s still very competently shot and directed, and often times very beautiful. Just nothing particularly unique.
The mystery itself is well put together, and it’s executed just as well as it is in the novel. It’s not so easily solvable that everyone will have it figured out by the end of the first episode, but it’s not so ridiculous that nobody will have been able to figure it out by the end of the third episode. So, it definitely does its job. The visuals, and especially the soundtrack and sound effects, really do a good job of leading the audience through the mystery. I’m particularly thinking of the climax of the story, about 2/3 of the way through the third episode, where the soundtrack really hammers home the tension that’s been building throughout the episodes, all leading up to the moment where the murderer confesses, in true whodunnit style.
I don’t have much to say about Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling, good or bad, because, like the novel, there’s just not a whole lot to say. It’s an enjoyable mystery, filled with fairly well-written characters, that feels like a homage to old detective stories while also being distinctly modern. It’s lots of fun, well written, well acted, and well directed. There’s nothing particularly challenging about it, but that’s okay. There’s nothing particularly unique about how it looks, but that’s okay, too. I do like that Strike is representative of the disabled community, that’s nice, and I feel like he’s a good representation for the community as his disability doesn’t define his character at all. He’s a really good detective who just happens to be missing a leg. Overall, I really enjoyed Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I’m looking forward to BBC’s adaptation of The Silkworm (the second novel in the Cormoran Strike series), which starts airing next week.
(4 out of 5 wands)