Tag Archives: Olivia Colman

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

“…if we’re judging Murder on the Orient Express upon pure entertainment value alone, it’s only fair to say that this Kenneth Branagh adaptation is something of a success.”

Wayward Wolf.

This 2017 version of the Agatha Christie classic, Murder on the Orient Express (MOTOE from hereon in), seems to have received a rather mixed bag of reviews since its release. Certainly having on board (literally in this case), such a who’s who of acting royalty, demonstrates a certain confidence by Twentieth Century Fox that this weighty cast of A-listers would be sufficiently alluring to transform this well known who dunnit from being merely potential TV fodder into something of a big screen epic.

And if we’re judging MOTOE upon pure entertainment value alone, it’s only fair to say that this Kenneth Branagh adaptation is something of a success.

Branagh himself heads the cast, portraying famous Belgian detective Hercules Poirot. Like many of Agatha Christie’s heroic lead characters, Poirot proves yet again to be something of a jinx; his very presence unsurprisingly coinciding with a murder. In this instance it occurs aboard the luxurious Orient Express train en route from Turkey to Paris.

Only a limited number of passengers are booked to travel on this particular journey, however, all of whom instantly become suspects in the murder of one Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp), found dead in his sleeping quarters having been stabbed repeatedly.

Ratchett’s shady past is then slowly revealed by those that knew him, a past that more than justifies such a potentially retaliatory action; something that he had in fact made known to Poirot himself, that he was rather fearful of.

With Ratchett’s grave fears proven correct, and with all suspects aboard the train unable to flee the scene of the crime, it is once again down to Belgian’s famous bloodhound to sniff out the truth in this particularly gruesome case of murder.

When one thinks of Poirot, one probably thinks of David Suchet’s long running portrayal on the small screen. Whether that is to be considered the pinnacle of all things Poirot-related is of course open to debate, and there are many far better qualified than I to cast their judgement. Regardless of this, Branagh, it should be said, is excellent in his own portrayal, depicting Poirot as a fastidious stickler for both detail and equilibrium in all things; personal traits that will come to be severely tested in the course of time.

In support, Judi Dench plays the sour-faced Princess Dragomiroff, with Olivia Colman (Hildegarde Schmidt) – a lady of few words – her companion and dog carer.

Johnny Depp is decent enough as Ratchett, though his mumbled American drawl gets a little lost amidst the ambient din of a chugging steam train.

Derek Jacobi, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe and Michelle Pfeiffer more or less complete an all-star line-up of egos, something that Director Branagh will have been tasked with containing during the film’s shoot. Though given his admirable thespian credentials, there would arguably have been no-one better suited to that particular task.

Blessed with Haris Zambarloukos’s stunning cinematography, a quality cast, an overall keen eye for the small details, and a healthy dose of humour thrown in to boot, Branagh’s adaptation of MOTOE, whilst not necessarily adding anything particularly new or revolutionary in its vision, is nevertheless one worthy of both its place on the big screen and more importantly, of the Agatha Christie novel itself.

 

 

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FILM REVIEW: The Lobster

The Lobster is a love story. Kind of.

Perhaps not the kind you and I would be particularly familiar with, but even so, an against all odds tale of devotion, played out with a comical awkwardness, bordering on the uncomfortable.

The film portrays a society in which coupledom is the natural order of things and where being single, no matter the circumstances, is not only discouraged by society but infact considered a crime; grounds for arrest and rehabilitation.

No conventional love stories are going to blossom in such an environment.

David (Colin Farrell) is single having split from his girlfriend of twelve years and is consequently whisked away, together with his dog (his brother – all will be explained), by the authorities, to an idyllic hotel retreat in the countryside where he will join a number of other singles in seeing out a 45 day period in which each must ‘find love’ or suffer the ignominy of being turned into an animal, (of their own choosing).

Each prisoner (for that is what they are in essence), can increase the length of their stay at the hotel , accumulating credits (additional days) by being successful in the daily man-hunt, a procedure in which loners who lurk in the nearby woods – ostracized from society, are tracked down, sedated by way of a tranquiliser dart and brought back to the hotel where they too shall begin a 45 day stint of their own, if lucky…

There’s an essence of Big Brother that pervades throughout The Lobster and it’s hard to know whether it’s this fear of authority that has resulted in the array of social misfits that seem to populate Director Yorgos Lanthimos’s world, or whether this is just the natural way of things.

Whether it be the lisping inadequacies of John C Reilly’s character, the coniving, stoney-faced delivery of the limping man (Ben Whishaw), or the cold-hearted psychopathic tendencies of the heartless woman (Angeliki Papoulia), David is undoubtedly surrounded by similarly dysfunctional folk that, it has to be said, would probably benefit more from being turned into dogs, ponies or whichever species they have resigned themselves to being, than continuing their droid like existences as ‘humans’.

It’s only when finally seizing an opportunity to run away, hiding out with Lea Seydoux’s gang of loners in the woods, (a group as militant in their staunch defence of all things single, as their polar opposites are of ‘togetherness’ in the hotel), that David finally has a chance to discover love with the short sighted woman, (Rachel Weisz). However, this being The Lobster , naturally it’s an outlawed love (by Seydoux’s own loner rules), which opens up a whole new set of issues and circumstances for David to contend with.

Be it the hotel’s daily indoctrination via propaganda shows of ‘together is good, alone is bad,’ the occasional random appearance of a camel or peacock gate-crashing an inapproriate scene (presumably loners whose 45 days had expired), or the loners’ own insistence that only electronic music should be danced to – a sort of woodland silent disco – as this would not encourage any human interaction and potential flirting, The Lobster is steeped in the darkest of humour.

There’s also a rather unsettling and sinister undercurrent that underpins the film; a fear of stepping out of line, by saying or doing the wrong thing and an assortment of characters whose extreme reticence would seem to reflect this.

As the old Japanese saying states: “never be the nail that stands up above the others…”

I did feel that the concept or perhaps more accurately, its delivery, was on the wane a little in the film’s latter stages. The stilted, almost robotic delivery of the characters started to become a little tiresome. That said, the final scene is as tense and riveting as anything I’ve seen all year and is a fitting finale.

Not a classic by any means, but a weird and wonderful idea, well acted and well executed.

Recommended.