FILM: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

Branagh MurderFirst there are the moustaches. They flow out of Brangh’s nose, sweep across his cheeks and end up about an inch from the lobes of his ears. They are described by Agatha Christie as ridiculous and these ones certainly are. There’s a rather worrying moment when we see the contraption that Poirot wears at night to keep his moustaches safe. It makes him look a bit like Hannibal Lecter. Close your eyes at that point.

This being Branagh. Poirot is Branagh-ed, Branagh is certainly not Poirot-ed. Branagh is incapable of playing him as ‘a ridiculous little man’ so there is longing in the gazing at a photo of Katherine and there is manly striding and Poirot does clever things with his stick. The beginning sequence is extremely bizarre. Poirot solving the Middle East crisis while measuring the height of his oeufs. I’m sorry if that line is obscure but you’ll just have to go and watch it to see what I mean. I suppose the purpose behind it is to inform us that Poirot is clever and odd and it certainly does that!

The plot is changed somewhat from the book, which is a relief because if it hadn’t been there would have been endless scenes of Poirot interviewing suspects and going. ‘Làlàprécisémentmon cher and eh bien mon ami…’  and  nothing much else. Fortunately, we have introduced here a stabbing, a shooting and a chase and this livens things up no end in comparison to the book. In one scene Poirot strides across the top of the snow-covered train and he keeps his footing. Phew!

The settings are all very beautiful. We have a lovely train, we have thrusting pistons, we have steam and we have snow-filled valleys, snow drifts and snow falls. Yes, there’s lots of lovely snow and the scene when the train steams out of Istanbul is particularly gorgeous. I love all that.

Now to the rest of the cast. I could have done with a great deal more of Olivia Colman, a woman who can do no wrong in my eyes. Here she gets to order the fish, play some cards with Judi Dench and utter a few lines in German. I could have done with more of Judi Dench as well, if it comes to that, although she does look very splendid in velvet and toque. Derek Jacobi gets to say more and is as always eminently watchable.  Johnny Depp plays a rotter perfectly well and can do this kind of thing standing on his head so can Willem Dafoe and Penelope Cruz and Michelle Pfeiffer. The ones who stand out are not the starry ones but more Josh Gad as Hector McQueen, Phil Dunster as Col. John Armstrong and Leslie Odom as Dr Arbuthnot.

I was looking forward to the product placement episode that I had been warned about in a review. If you have not heard of GODIVA CAKES you will certainly know about them at the end of this film. And Poirot does utter the immortal lines ‘I lerve theese leetle cecks.’ It is a startlingly stand-alone line. It’s not even as if he says, ‘The knife is hidden in these leetle cecks.’ or ‘Theese leetle cecks are filled with arsenic.’ No, it is apropos of nothing that he lerves them. I wonder how much money Godiva paid for the privilege of having Poirot utter this line. And I wonder if the  cecks will follow Poirot to the Nile. I worry the chocolate might melt in all that heat. Mind you, I worry that Branagh’s moustache might get a bit bedraggled as well. At the end of the film Poirot is summoned to Egypt so we know that’s where he’s heading next. I think Ken will look very nice in the linen suit and the panama which he is probably being measured for as I type.

Would I recommend it?  Well, I think your enjoyment will depend on two things. First your view of Kenneth Branagh, who is in my opinion a bit of a marmite actor. If you don’t mind lots of close ups of his big, angsty blue eyes, you’ll be fine, if not, it’ll be a long couple of hours. Second, if you’re someone who knows Agatha Christie’s writing very well and wants a film that reflects that, the depiction of Poirot may well infuriate you. Probably best to give this a miss and seeks out the DVD of David Suchet’s version or Albert Finney’s, both of whom are much closer to the original.

MoustachesFinally, if you would also like to experiment with your own moustaches here is a lovely box of moustaches I spied in Paperchase. You can get to choose between six moustache styles: traditional gent, cowboy, rusty brush, Italian plumber, oil baron and Abra-Kadabra! (I know, I know but I’m only writing down what’s on the packet). Poirot’s incidentally is closest to traditional gent. This being my own product placement. Paperchase, darling, if you happen to be reading, I’m a writer so how about notebooks for life. Oh, and pens I could do with some pens as well, especially those fancy ones you lock in the glass cabinets. Waiting to hear from you. Thanking  you ever so, as Marilyn might once have said.

Have you seen the film? What did you think of it and Branagh as Poirot?

20 thoughts on “FILM: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

    • Hi Cafe Society – it’s quite good fun and fairly predictable other than the Godiva cakes of course. I also like a leetle ceck or eight.. On the subject of cecks there’s also a rather funny scene when Branagh and Depp share a ceck. Depp doesn’t get much of a look in!

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  1. I have liked Branagh since I first saw him on stage in ‘Another Country’ opposite the louche Rupert Everett (I didn’t see why the unknown Colin Firth took his role in the film…) but your lovely review has confirmed to me that this is not a film to bother with. I can’t stop seeing it as something like the Wimbledon panto, with its All-Stars phoning in their schtick. But I suspect when it appears on Netflix or wherever then I might sneak a look and probably quite enjoy it (along with a glass of sherry and a box of Matinee Selection that must obviously accompany it).

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    • It is a bit like panto but it is also quite good fun as well as being ridiculous. I envy you having seen Rupert in his louche youth. I love him and really adored his autobiographies. Which are screamingly funny, very well-written and utterly indiscreet. the last time I saw him he was in The Musketeers playing a thoroughly decadent louche type with great panache! It was a bit like watching Alan Rickman in Robin Hood you wanted him to be on screen all the time.

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  2. Ugh! It sounds dreadful! And to think I so nearly went to see it – saved from a fate worse than death! Why on earth do they do it? And why on earth does Christie’s estate let them?? (I know, money.) *shudders* I’m devastated at the thought of them doing the Nile…

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    • Oh, FF, I didn’t want to put you off altogether. I did enjoy it especially the snow-scapes and there is a very funny scene in which Branagh and Depp share a cake. Well, Branagh eats most of it which has quite weird homoerotic undertones. I enjoyed that as well! Sorry, that should be ‘share a ceck’ but it’s not a Godiva one. Maybe Depp put his foot down.

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  3. I decided not to see the film just based on the trailers I saw. I’m a bit of a purist in that I don’t like it when people change too much about a book when they make it into a film. The original book was very slow moving (not my favorite) but I don’t like it when they add violence in an attempt to make it more interesting. Also, in my mind the only one who portrays Poirot correctly is David Suchet. (Have I spelled that right?) Did you ever see the most recent “And then there were none?” They ruined that one too by trying to turn it into some sort of creep show! Thanks for this post….it confirmed what I already suspected!

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