Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express (Kenneth Brannagh, 2017) 3/5

It’s becoming abundantly clear that this film isn’t just a big budget one-off adaptation of Murder-on-the-Orient-Express-New-Film-Poster.jpgan Agatha Christie classic. Hollywood rarely decides to produce a film unless it has legs, or in this case, a firm set of wheels. This is the fourth incarnation of the Hercule Poirot mystery whodunnit and it has been given a serious upgrade. Not only does it all look beautiful but there is a whacking great big cast here of well-known European and American actors. Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe and Kenneth Branagh in the title role all stand out in their respective parts. As such, in an age where Marvel and DC are fighting for superhero supremacy, are we now looking at the resurgence of another franchise: The Agatha Christie whodunnits?!

I guess, what is lacking here is just sheer originality. I have to admit that I couldn’t actually remember this particular story (I’m more of a Marple fan really), but as the narrative progressed it did all become very familiar. Michael Green’s script lends most of its strength to previous adaptations from the BBC and others to fill the screen. His relationship with Ridley Scott is palpable as he wrote Alien: Covenant and Blade Runner 2049, both of which were produced under the Scott Free production banner. It just all seems like this project at times was phoning itself in, bringing in the new crowds as well as Christie devotees. At times, it lacked the pace of previous versions and the ‘twist’ just isn’t climactic enough. That being said, there are some amazingly beautiful set pieces here.

Jim Clay’s (Woman in Gold, Children of Men) production design is faultless as is Haris Zambarloukos’ (Thor, Cinderella (2015)) cinematography. Both of which, create a great sense of time and space and focus on the most important character, that of the train itself. Indeed, these are actually some of the films strong points as within the close quarters of the cabins is precisely how the tension increases and the murderer is revealed.

In sum, this adaptation of the Murder on the Orient Express breathes new life into the literary classic. However, by adding new stars into the mix and increased technology, the actual story becomes stilted and a bit turgid.

 

 

 

 

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Kenneth Branagh, 2014) 3/5

 

Some films needn’t reinvent the wheel to be entertaining. Whilst others need an injection of jack-ryan-shadow-recruit-poster-2originality to make them passable, Kenneth Branagh’s most recent directorial effort sits in the middle of those two. Bringing to life the long dormant franchise of Jack Ryan is much a great PR task rather than having anything to do with film. This newest entry has Chris Pine in the leading role, with Keira Knightley as his love interest, Branagh as the baddie and Kevin Costner as Ryan’s CIA father figure. Blending perfectly what younger and older fans expect, you can’t help but be impressed in the casting decisions.

But, what about the plot? Well, in true reboot fashion we start at the beginning. Jack is a mindless and sleep deprived LSE student until 9/11 hits and develops a conscious and joins the army. Yes, this is in the first 10 minutes of the film and the films plot speed equates itself nicely to the speed of the bullets from an AK47. Needless to say, years pass by and an injured Ryan gets recruited by the CIA and unravels a huge conspiracy whereby Russia will take down America’s economy. As bombs explode, relationships hang in limbo and twists are revealed Ryan appears unflustered throughout. And why shouldn’t he, Pine is more content in contacting his inner Action Man than any of the other character traits of the previous Jack Ryan’s.

Swiftly, albeit unoriginally told, the film is done and dusted in 100 minutes. I think this is spot on for a film that is, in all equal measures thrilling, action packed and full of enough romantic interludes without making your head spin. As such, everybody works well here and the end result is a great night out in the multiplex. Whereby you sit down, take out your brain and enjoy this entertaining, unoriginal but whole lotta fun flick.