Friday, November 10, 2017

And now, a movie review: Murder on the Orient Express

We (finally) got to the theater to see Murder on the Orient Express today (we've both seen the 1974 Albert Finney version and the more recent David Suchet version, and we've both read the book). Since I first read the book--a long time ago--I've been somewhat prejudiced against it, because I think the ending is something of a cheat. But it has worked well as a movie.

Both the 1974 version and the 2017 one have things in common--chiefly that they are both "star" vehicles, especially in the non-lead roles. The 1974 version, for example, has these folks in it:
Albert Finney
Lauren Bacall
Ingrid Bergman (who, for me, was reason enough to see it)
Jacqueline Bisset
Sean Connery
John Gielgud
Wendy Hiller
Anthony Perkins
Vanessa Redgrave
Rachel Roberts

If anything, that's more star power than the remake (but not by much):
Kenneth Bramagh
Daisy Ridley
Penelope Cruz
Johnny Depp
Derek Jacobi
Michelle Pfeiffer
Judi Dench
Willem Dafoe

And, in fact, one of my problems with both feature film productions is that most of those stars are mostly wasted.

As it happens, we both mostly enjoyed the current version (although the sound, in the theater in which we saw it, was muddy), at least while we were watching it. But, as I have thought about it afterwards, it was not a particularly well-made movie. Much of the "location" footage was at best adequate (and the opening scenes were pretty much unnecessary). The use of camera movement once we got on the train was distracting (and did not add anything). And the set d├ęcor and lighting were at best adequate.

But, again, for me, the waste of talent was appalling. Johnny Depp, as Edward Ratchett, seemed bored. He had a right to be--he didn't have much to do. Judy Dench had, I think, about 8 words of dialogue, and, while she sat nicely in her train seat, that's about all she did. Willem Dafoe didn't have much to do, either. I thought Daisy Ridley was about as engaging as anyone, and that Michelle Pfeiffer was excellent. Bramagh (I know a lot of people didn't like his 'stache, but it didn't bother me all that much) just seemed wrong as Poirot--not dedicated enough to the use of the little grey cells (and what was the deal with the picture he was carrying with him), and seeming to jump from suspect to suspect almost at random. Maybe he was too concerned with directing the thing than with his performance.

Fortunately, we get the senior citizen discount and we both had a really nice lunch before the movie. I think we'll watch the David Suchet version again, just to see how it holds up

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