Sunday, 12 November 2017

#88 MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS


Starring Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Millem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Colman and Daisy Ridley. Written by Michael Green. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Budget $55 million. Running time 114 minutes.

Fabulously fantastically, brilliant, handsome and devastatingly fantastic Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is desperate for a holiday but he keeps getting called on to solve incredibly elaborate crimes, be they who stole a priceless heirloom from a church to who murdered the incredibly sleazy gangster business man, Samuel Ratchet (Johnny Depp) in the cabin next door to his on the Orient Express.

Considering the train of the title is trapped in a huge snow drift after a cgi avalanche the list of possible suspects for the crime is limited to those sat in the first class dining car. So, is it the dashing doctor Dr. Arbuthnot (Lesilie Odom Jr.), or is it Hildergarde Schmidt (Olivia Colman) loyal maid to Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench)? How about the mysterious Count Rudolph Andrenyi (Sergei Polunin), or the stern German professor Gerhard Hardman (Willem Dafoe)? Don't fancy them as the murderer, then how about rich American widow Mrs Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer) or Ratchet's butler Edward Masterman (Derek Jacobi) could he be the culprit? No, but wait! There's still Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad), Ratchet's personal assistant, and Pilar Estravado (Penelpe Cruz) the Spanish missionary, she looks too good to be true! As does Countess Andrenyi (Lucy Boynton), used car sales man Marquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and I'm suspicious of that train conductor Marwan Kenzari (Pierre Michel) he looks like a likely candidate doesn't he? Finally, last but by no means least there's Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley) our plucky English young woman, immensely fiesty and jolly.

And what do all these characters have to do with the infamous Armstrong Case of five years ago, which saw the tragic murder of a child kidnap victim and the subsequent deaths of four more people all linked to the case?

Luckily, fantastically fabulous, brilliant and handsome detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is on hand to lead the possible suspects and us through the spider-web like labyrinth of clues, red herrings and intrigue to explain and reveal which one of them is the murderer.

Fully aware that this modern update of the original and infinitely better Albert Finley 1974 version is a tad slow for modern audiences and features a body count that numbers just one Kenny lobs in some un-needed extra beats of action and drama and a hinted at and needless mysterious romantic past for Hercule missing from Agatha Christie's original novel.

That coupled with an over use of 'happy valley' cgi animation and cgi created scenery robs this film of a sense of the real world setting or reality and creates the sense we're watching Polar Express 2. On top of that we have Kenny's portrayal of Hercule Poirot, no longer the preening fat Belgium with the weird little waxed moustache replaced by the rugged, dashing Branagh and his amazing handlebar moustache which takes up most of the screen whenever Kenny zooms in on his leading hero's amazing face for another closeup, which is every time Hercule speaks.

The talented ensemble cast emote their little cotton socks off and clearly seem to be relishing their roles, but it's all for naught since Kenny doesn't seem that interested in them, focusing instead on irritating camera moves and arty-farty shots through bevelled glass to show the duality of the characters. Similarly the reveal of the murder victim is similarly short-changed and badly revealed.

This thunks along from one suspect to the next, giving us just enough to leave us feeling baffled before Hercule strides in and explains it all for us and unmasks the killer with no real sense of drama or reveal. After which there's just time for the sequel set up and another god-awful cgi created vista.

A plodding, un-engaging period drama that utterly fails to ignite and which fumbles the classic reveal robbing it of any surprise or drama. It's only the decent cast that saves this from a truly dreadful score.

6/10

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