Sunday, 5 November 2017

Murder On The Orient Express



I've great memories of watching Poirot on ITV with my Nana back in the late 80's and early 90's. The two of us sitting down, lashing into Turkish Delight bars and watching the Belgian fella twirling his moustache and catching the baddies out. I hadn't a clue what was going on half the time but loved the show anyway. When I heard there was a big lavish version of Murder On The Orient Express coming to the cinema I was delighted. And maybe a bit wistful. Then I started hearing a few meh things about it. Feck. But then I watched it.

Inspector Hercule Poirot is a world renowned Belgian detective working in Israel. After solving a case he travels to Istanbul to board the famously luxurious Orient Express locomotive to go home and relax. While travelling through the mountains of Yugoslavia the train is stopped by inclement weather and that night a murder takes place on board. Poirot must use his skill and cunning to figure out which of his fellow passengers did the dastardly deed (Serious alliteration there).

I liked this. It's gave me a cosy feeling. It's an old fashioned and slow moving film but it had a charm about it that just hooked me. Nostalgia of course played a large part in it. And a cracking opening. In 20 minutes we are introduced to Poirot and find out he's world famous, very genial, loved by all, has friends everywhere, high and low, he's extremely intelligent, he's brave, loves his grub, has a wicked moustache and is Mr Joie De Vivre. It's a super introduction. We also get to meet, rather rapidly, the other passengers onboard the train. Played mostly by very recognisable actors and introduced with a few choice lines so we can tell them all apart. It's done in a pleasingly economical way so everyone stays fresh in your head. Later in the film when the real sleuthing starts the pace slows but there's fun to be had watching Poirot question and catch people out. I like how it was shot too. Scenes are filmed in lovely sweeping takes, from above, from below and even refracted through ornate glass. When a film is mostly set in one place it can get visually boring but here the way we see things is regularly changed up to stop repetition setting in. Kenneth Branagh directed this too by the way. He has a good eye.



Branagh is great fun as Poirot. You can just tell he's having a ball in the part. Even in his shittier films he always adds a touch of class to a movie and brings big dollops of it to here. In support there's Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, Derek Jacobi, Olivia Colman, Johnny Depp, Willem Defoe & Dame Judi Dench. With a large cast like this some characters will shine and others will get short shrift. The shiners are Ridley, Pfeiffer, Odom Jr and in a short affecting scene Derek Jacobi. It's a shame to see brilliant actors like Judi Dench, Olivia Coleman and especially Penelope Cruz not making an impact though. It's a problem that plagued the 1974 film version too. Loads of characters is fine in a book but a film will always struggle to give them all a moment to shine. You get the sense that a lot of the cast was hired to add star power to the movie and maybe things might have been more effective with lesser known actors. But as mentioned earlier, well known faces help make it easier to differentiate characters quickly in a large cast. Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

BTW there's an actor in this that will put a lot of people off watching it. I'm not going to say his name because it may be a vague spoiler but honestly, he's not in it enough to ruin the film.



Don't go into this expecting anything on a big scale or surprising. It's a 2 hr ITV special writ large. Some CGI enhanced landscapes and birds eye views of the train give it a larger feel but the vast majority of the film is based in one place and does feel a bit stagey at times. But it's mostly well done. It's fun. I guffawed at Poirot's seemingly supernatural detective skills in places but it made me smile. It reminded me of carefree times. It's good to see a grit free film sometimes, one where any mention of sex is in euphemisms and the violence is all implied. It's going to be a nice exercise in nostalgia for a lot of people.

A grand way to spend a couple of hours in the cinema.

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