Sunday, 12 November 2017

Murder On The Orient Express (12A)

To say we were excited about going to see Murder On The Orient Express would be a tad misleading.

Yes, the trailer had tickled interest, but we hadn't felt the need to rush and in the end only ambled in as we had some free time.

And the trailer was actually part of the problem.

While the cast of famous faces had been paraded on the screen, the film looked like it could be worth a shufty, but once Kenneth Branagh's ridiculously-moustached fizzog appeared so did the doubts.

You see, much like Doctor Who, fans of Agatha Christie tend to have 'their' sleuth.

For me, Joan Hickson IS Miss Marple and David Suchet IS Hercule Poirot, the chubby, fussy Belgian with the perfect facial hair.

So to see Branagh with whiskers waxed round to his ears...


...Let's just say it didn't inspire.

But hey, no matter, it's a classic tale. The whiskers won't make any difference. You can't screw the story up, can you?


But you can have a spirited go, it turns out.

But let's start with the positives, shall we?

Given Branagh is behind the camera as well as in front, it's directed as well as you'd expect and looks fantastic.

And most of the cast - Michelle Pfeiffer and Star Wars star Daisy Ridley in particular - put in a good shift and help to keep the action and intrigue on the front foot.

So that's all good.


Let's be clear about one thing.

Hercule Poirot is not, in any way, shape or form, an action hero.

He's late middle-age, portly, short, and might break into a forced shuffling trot if really, really necessary.

But running about is not his thing.

If nothing else, he's spent a lot of time enjoying fine food and wine while sitting on his backside. Running would do more harm than good.

Still, Branagh obviously decided that wasn't for him, so we have to put up with Poirot as a lower-league Bond, Doctor Who or Sherlock.

Which would work if you could forget who he's the legendary stout Belgian.

There's also the small matter of what he does with his cane in the opening sequence, but that kind of gets overshadowed by something slightly bigger.

You see, in the book - which is something of a classic - the whole thing starts off with Poirot having just solved a case.

In Siberia.

Not Jerusalem, as we get in this latest version.

One can only assume no one fancied a week in the freezing cold, hence the re-write, because it sure as hell wasn't done for narrative reasons.

And it wasn't needed.

Sure, I get that Ken wanted to establish who and what Poirot is before getting to all the detectoring, but we're not talking about an unknown character here.

Along with the aforementioned literary legends, Agatha Christie's hero is firmly established and well known.

If not from the books, then certainly from the TV series.

So 20 minutes titting about solving a case you don't need to care about simply adds to the feeling that this whole thing is nothing more than a vanity project.

So one is already niggled and a smidge puzzled before we've even got as far as the train.

Which is where the other issue occurs.

Now, you see, I had remembered who had dunnit just as the opening credits rolled, but couldn't remember the finer details so was still keen to see how events unfolded.

And the beauty about this story is the fact it is set on a train.

No one can escape, no one can suddenly appear, you have who you have at the start and off you go.

And this adds to the tension.

You have all your suspects from the off, and they're all trapped in one place so suspicions run rife and tension mounts.

So how the hell do you manage to make the thing dull?

And yet, at the same time, not boring.

Pretty early on you find your attention wandering, and yet you don't feel the time dragging.

It's quite the surreal experience. Also adds weight to the theory that he really, really wanted to be the new Doctor.

It also adds to the feeling that this film really didn't need to be made.

A feeling that grows when, come the big reveal, you realise you really don't care.

Although the invoking of The Last Supper may have had a part to play in this.

Overall, this film is not terrible.

It's well made, fairly well written, and moves from A to B at a reasonable rate.

But the CGI elements are cheap, the cast mismatched, Depp is awful, and you'll leave with more questions than answers.

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