All original written content is (c) 2017 Mike Pascale. Visual content is (c) its respective owners. Bru-Hed art is ©2012 and a trademark of All Ages Media and Mike Pascale.
NEWBIES: If this is your first trip here (welcome!), here’s the QT on what these reviews are.
THIS WEEK: Agatha Christie’s huge whodunit enters the 21st-century with Kenneth (THOR) Branagh as the famous, mustached, Belgian detective Hercule (not “Hercules”) Poirot who gets stuck on a snow-bound train with a bunch of famous actors and a murder to solve. Along for the ride are Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfieffer, Daisy (STAR WARS’ “Rey”) Ridley, Leslie (GOTHAM’s Harvey Dent) Odom Jr., Judy Dench, Olivia (BROADCHURCH) Colman, Josh (FROZEN’s Olaf) Gad, Penélope Cruz, Derek (VICIOUS) Jacobi, Willem (SPIDER-MAN’s Green Goblin) Dafoe to keep it all interesting.
Screenplay by Michael Green, based on the novel by Agatha Christie. Directed by Kenneth Branagh.
- Obviously, the casting is the big draw. It’s fun to see all the “big” names (and skilled smaller ones) try to out-act each other while portraying quirky characters with hidden depth and more issues than a magazine rack. All do a great job but Depp, Pfieffer and Gad were my favorites.
- Branagh makes a great Poirot. While I can’t compare him to other versions (I don’t watch French-speaking people if I can help it), he was equally and entertainingly quirky and confident (not as neurotic or uptight as TV detective MONK and not as cocky or dickish as Cumberbatch’s SHERLOCK, but a unique combo of the two). He can be funny and deadly serious at any moment.
- Visually beautiful and stylish. The sweeping outdoor shots of the train going around mountain ranges and other scenic environments are breathtaking and the various setups inside and outside the train are handled creatively and effectively: claustrophobic, luxurious, dangerous, intimate and dramatic when needed. You really feel a part of the action as well as the tension.
- The retro sets and costumes seem very convincing. Not that I know crap about international fashion or ancient music, but I believed it took place in the 1930s.
- A good script. Poirot has most of the best lines but some of the others have some decent zingers and emotional impactful ones too. To paraphrase one of my favorites: “I have reached the age where I know what I like and what I don’t. What I like I enjoy immensely and what I don’t, I cannot tolerate.” [FROM MIKE: Steve Ditko fans will notice a similarity with Steve’s Mr. A character when Poirot says, “There is right and there is wrong. There is nothing in between.” Did the detective read Ayn Rand?]
- As you’d expect, there’s the unexpected; the plot twists and turns more than the train tracks! I ended up switching between three different suspects before guessing correctly about a minute before the truth was revealed. (I never read the book or remembered any other ORIENT EXPRESS film versions so it was gladly all new to me.)
- Ending is satisfying. (The trailers didn’t ruin it!) The main villain gets it good and there’s room for a sequel.
- Suspension Of Disbelief Dept.: Very minor. If you think about all the coincidences and puzzle pieces, something may not fit exactly, especially during the murder scene (including the red kimono). But it’s easy to let it slide since it’s well done and a great story.
- Poirot’s thick Belgian/French accent can be a little tough to understand, especially during the quiet scenes.
- Because of so many characters, and their layers of motivations, there’s only so much you can do in a two-hour flick. So there’s quite a bit of exposition and sudden reveals that would have had more impact with a slower ramp-up. (This would make a good TV mini-series it hasn’t been one already.)
- Sadly, only rated PG-13, so we don’t get to see Daisy Ridley or any other decent babe undress. *sigh*
- The story is based on the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping which was a worldwide story/tragedy back in the day, but I bet anyone under 40 probably doesn’t even know who he was, let alone what happened to his family. (If you don’t, Google it!)
- Poirot’s mustache should get its own credit; Poirot takes way too much care of it. I thought it was 3-D at times! [FROM CRAIG: This is a PRO, not a CON. That mustache is epic!]
Other than the relatively few gorgeous outdoor and “big train” shots, I don’t think you’ll benefit much from the giant screen. (Watching at home might add to the intimacy.) However, you may want to see it in the theater to avoid spoilers…some moron will let out the ending on Facebook or Twitter when you least expect it, if they haven’t already. But still, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS is a great flick and worth checking out. I hope they make more. (*CRAIG AGAIN: This film was shot on 65mm film and if you’re lucky enough to live in Los Angeles or New York you can see it projected on the big screen in glorious 70mm. In that case SEE IT!)
Time to start thinkin’ of the Ho-Ho-Holidays! Get your commission request in soon for a nice pencil piece, a sketch card or inked art for your favorite person (or yourself). Just ask Craig here!
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed here are not those of Wednesday’s Heroes, Mike Pascale, Belgian detectives, murder suspects, Turkish bakers, foreign royalty, the 1930s, or train employees. Bru wants to do a version called BEER THIEF ON THE BUS and play the famous American detective, Hercules Potbelly. Studios, start the bidding war!