On the Orient Express
The 1934 novel by Agatha Christie receives a 21st-century re-write,
ably presided over by Kenneth Branagh, who both directs and stars as
Hercule Poirot, the world's greatest detective.
Never mind that Christie envisioned Poirot to be a short, fat
Belgian who spoke French; Branagh is Irish who scatters French phrases in
his speech, then uses his German in his line of questioning.
It's all in good fun; we're taking a train from Jerusalem to
Istanbul with no security visible anywhere.
And of course in the 1930's, vacationing rich people on a
first-class train would have been stylishly dressed.
It's a great opportunity for some Hollywood A-listers to style up
in period costume: Johnny Depp,
Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Penelope
Cruz....all lend stylishness, even if there's not enough screen time for
all to shine equally.
Yes, there's a murder on this train, that happens sometime in the
middle of the night, and somewhere between Jerusalem and Istanbul.
To add to the confusion, the train is derailed by a
lightning-induced snow avalanche in the mountains.
So everybody is stuck together for a while on a train that isn't
moving, which is convenient for the parlar drama, even if we do wonder how
they all kept from freezing to death.
Because the movie is based on a book, its plot is tight and its
narrative takes the viewer in a particular direction.
But the accents are sometimes difficult to understand, and the
casting's political correctness of insuring a diverse racial mix among the
constituents was certainly not something Ms. Christie envisioned in the
1930's. But none of that is as
distracting as the plot twist at the end, which is how detective stories
Branagh hams it up just right as the fussy, perfectionist Hercule
Poirot, who will ask men to straighten their ties.
And demand that his eggs be a certain distance apart.
He hates being lied to, and in this case everyone lies.
He's good at perceiving clues where few others would (we
demonstrate this by a little preview of
public detecting next to the Wailing Wall, of all places).
But in this case, there are so many clues left laying about that
Mr. Poirot wonders if he's being set up.
Yes, our intrepid detective is supposed to be on holiday, and then
he's scheduled to be back in London, but we get the feeling that he would
have taken this one on even if he didn't happen to stumble upon it.
Some cases are just so ripe with potential and rife
with discord that Hercule Poirot, World's Greatest Detective, could not
help but be interested. And
neither can we. But hurry to
see it before somebody gives away the punch line.