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“Murder on the Orient Express”: The Train in Vain Strains Plainly to Maintain

Hercule Poirot!

“Stay back or I’ll poke your eye out! With finesse!”

From Shakespeare adaptations to Hitchock homages to Frankenstein, once upon a time director Sir Kenneth Branagh’s primary focus was leading regal thespian ensembles in bringing back classics for a new generation. Over time he’s somehow transformed into a major-studio go-to for big-budget fare like Disney’s Cinderella do-over, the first Thor movie, and the unnecessary Jack Ryan prequel. His latest highly polished effort, a revival of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express, tries to bridge the gap between the two halves of his career — recruiting well-known faces to help him reacquaint an unfamiliar audience with one of the standards of the nearly dead mystery-movie genre. If nothing else, he’s also overseen a talented hair/makeup crew who bring us the Best Movie Mustache of the Year.

Full disclosure: I’ve never read any Christie novels or seen any adaptations of her work. The only thing I knew going into Branagh’s version is that the twist ending was spoiled for me decades ago by some long-forgotten humorist who thought it would be funny to joke about spoilers by citing Rosebud, Luke Skywalker’s father, and Orient Express‘ solution all in the same careless punchline, on the flawed assumption that everyone who mattered already knew how it ended. I wish I could remember the writer in question so I could tell him to his face that he was wrong and he sucks.

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