12 November 2017

A Pleasant Enough Ride

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Murder On The Orient Express tells the story of a large moustache as it's forced to participate in a murder investigation by its detective owner. Hercule Poirot is everybody's favourite Belgian detective after Tintin's dog, with this film telling the story of his inability to travel from one point to another without tripping over another corpse. Even when the fucker is off duty he manages to find himself in the company of a murder victim and for some reason the police never seem to even suspect that he might be the killer. I mean, even the simple villagers only believed the boy who cried wolf a couple of times... Poirot, it seems, could literally be unloading his balls onto a corpse and the police seemingly wouldn't even question him. Anyway, the story begins here when Poirot boards a train in which a sinister chap played by Johnny Depp is murdered. Although considering that we now live in a post-Weinstein world, the story could almost have skipped the murder altogether and simply had him try to work out which of the A-List cast wasn't a sexual predator. As Poirot prowls the train he claims to be the worlds greatest detective and yet this is a case that seems to stump him. I don't mean to brag but it doesn't take the worlds greatest detective to solve the case of the dead Johnny Depp. Just check who might still be the beneficiary of his life insurance and then point the fucking train in the direction of Amber Heard's house.

There have been multiple adaptations of this story over the years however perhaps the most famous is the 1974 Sidney Lumet version. There's no denying that Albert Finney did a great job as the Belgian detective in that equally starry movie and yet I suspect that for most of us it'll be the face of David Suchet that we most associate with name Poirot. Well - it is for me because I watched the David Suchet Poirot series whenever it was on television as a child. It's not that I gave much of a shit about it but rather that it was on past 9:00pm in the evening and if I started watching it there was a chance I'd be able to convince my Mum to let me stay up late to finish it. I mean, literally what's the point in  bed times? “Go and lie down, child. Stare at the ceiling in the dark until you lose consciousness”. I honestly believe that kids learn how to masturbate when they become teenagers as their body's way of coping with the boredom of bed time. Sure I could have gone to bed to read a book.. like Murder On The Orient Express for example. But what's the point in that?” I'd tell my Mum when she'd be sending me to bed to read, “I'm sure the book is good but does it star Daisy Ridley or Michelle Pfeiffer? No, it doesn't.” And with that I'd be off to bed for a wank.

I mention both Finney and Suchet to emphasise how iconic the shoes were that the next actor to the role would be having to slide into. As director of this film, Kenneth Branagh must have scoured the Earth looking for the perfect man for the job before stumbling past a mirror and thinking, “Ah fuck it I'll do it myself”. And as a director, I think this was probably his best decision with his performance here being so good that he also manages to overcome the challenge of having the most ridiculous fucking moustache since Justin Bieber forgot to shave for a year. However unlike Bieber's attempt which just looked the like the shit stains from a night of heavy rimming, Branagh has gone full-tache with it looking like his Poirot has attempted to snort a fucking sea-lion and gotten it stuck at the final flipper. It's as though Branagh has decided to challenge his own acting ability by trying to include the most distracting thing that he can think of and then seeing if he can claim your attention over it. Imagine if he'd spent his time as the dark arts teacher in Harry Potter by using a huge floppy dildo instead of a wand and still expected you to concentrate on his performance and it's kind of like that. Sort of. And to be fair to him.. because Branagh is such a great actor he completely gets away with it.

In fact, if there's one reason to watch this movie it's for him alone with his performance containing so much charm and warmth that it almost makes up for the film's problems. Whenever we cut to the outside of the moving train, the vehicle looks so computer generated that he may as well have saved money by simply having a blind child scribble what it thinks a train might look like onto the film. Nor do any of the other characters really make much of an impression beyond Depp's gangster and Pfeiffer's seemingly desperate tart. Oh and there isn't really that much tension to the movie either, which is kind a shame. It features a suspicious cast of characters that are confined to a small area of shelter due to a snow storm outside. If The Thing or The Hateful 8 have shown us anything it's that that kind of environment is ripe for depicting a level of paranoia rarely seen outside of a weed den as a police car casually drives past. In fact, the trailer in which we see the suspects sat along the carriage as Poirot walks amongst them whilst listening to Imagine Dragons.. presumably on his iPod.. does a better job at conveying tension than most of the actual film does.

Things ramp up for the conclusion in which Poirot finds his world view tested, however this really just serves to highlight a mood that's been lacking from the rest of the movie. Not that I care I suppose because, like I say, I really liked Branagh's Poirot enough that I still found the film to be enjoyable. This version of Murder On The Orient Express isn't going to become a classic, however it'll work perfectly well as a movie to watch on boxing day with the rest of the family whilst sharing a box of chocolates. Or better yet.. do what I do and ignore most of your family and then you'll get the box of chocolates to yourself too. I have no idea if we'll see more of this version of the character however it's heavily hinted at in the films conclusion that all involved certainly plan on it. In which case that's fine by me, but if we could get a film that matches the quality of the lead performance next time then I think I'd be even happier. At one point Poirot looks around the carriages and mutters “I see evil on this train”. Although I'm from near Liverpool and unless he's been on the last train home from there on a Friday night then I think there's still plenty more crimes for him left to solve. Thanks for reading and see you next time, motherfuckers.

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