Saturday, 14 April 2018

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (film) is pretentious

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS - 2017
Director: Kenneth Branagh.
Cast: Kenneth Branagh / Penelope Cruz / Judi Dench / Johnny Depp / Daisy Ridley / Josh Gad / Michelle Pfeiffer
Score: Patrick Doyle.
Cinematography: Haris Zambarloukos.
Content Advisory: PG 13 for violence and thematic elements.
Source: Rented.

When a murder occurs on the train he's travelling on, celebrated detective Hercule Poirot is recruited to solve the case.





I read the book a few years ago and loved it. I also watched the original 1974 Murder on the Orient Express film, and enjoyed it. After seeing the cast attached to this remake, I just had to see it, as well.


But what a missed opportunity. The sets (especially those at the start of the film) are ridiculously fake, the dialogue is weak, the humour is too awkward to work, and the cinematography is jarring, save for the occasional stunning shot. Everything is simply trying too hard. It's trying to capture Christie's genius, but instead coming across overdone.
However, the music is beautiful. I loved that.

The plot is overwrought. The scenes don't flow, and there's no classiness or sophistication. I feel like the writers and producers were trying too hard to recreate the atmosphere and level of class written by Christie, but veered catastrophically overboard and ended up with an extremely self-indulgent plot. The drama is piled on too thick and becomes melodrama, the terse dialogue becomes cheesy, and overall the story feels like it's there to showcase Branagh, boost his ego, and that's it. It is pretentious in every way.
Admittedly, though, the story does improve as it goes along. It loses some of its ego, delivers some emotion, but then again is ruined by a cliche ending monologue by Branagh. It does improve, but it falls off the rails all too soon. It's almost redeemed, but not quite.




The cast are wasted. With the likes of Wilhem Dafoe, Michelle Pfieffer, and even Judi Dench, it seems criminal. But no one is allowed to exercise their full talent, no one gets decent enough dialogue or screen time to do so, and they become easily forgettable stereotypes in a snowy setting. Daisy Ridley is the only one who left an impression on me, and even she got more screen time than the better known A-listers.
Kenneth Branagh's take on Poirot is egotistical. The huge moustache is an odd choice, and if it's supposed to be humorous then that's humour misplaced. But I just don't like how seemingly self-obsessed with his legendary role Branagh was. The story, his dialogue, all seem to be doing more for ego than anything else. His character is arrogant, puffed-up; he's hard to like.




Murder on the Orient Express is too overwhelmed with its lead actor and brilliant source material to look at either without rose-tinted glasses. It tries too hard, and the cast are lost in a showy script.


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