Friday, November 10, 2017
Murder On The Orient Express (2017)
As a rule, sequels are a bad idea. Like someone doing an impression of someone else, they steal a little of the magic from those who do a much better job in real life, and effortlessly, and the truly awful ones make you wish for a handy weapon. And there are few folks even remotely talented enough to justify any attempt to pull one off.
Going back to the dawn of motion pictures, I can count the worthy re-makes on my fingers*, while the god-awful atrocious ones would need an abacus and reams of paper.
And a handy weapon.
This movie is the exception that proves that rule.
The 1974 version was directed by film legend Sidney Lumet, and received six nominations for Academy Awards, winning one for Ingrid Bergman for Best Supporting Actress. (It was only up against Godfather II and Chinatown, nominated for 11 Oscars apiece that year.)
If you never saw the earlier version, you'll like this one.
If you watched the earlier version (as I did, a couple of days ago, for comparison) you'll like this one.
Today's premiere is produced by Ridley Scott, directed by Kenneth Branagh and with himself in the starring role as Hercule Poirot.
The 1974 version had scads of talented name stars with oodles of Oscars and nominations.
The 2017 version has scads of talented name stars with oodles of Oscars and nominations.
There are times when that really matters. This flick is absolutely one of those times.
Daisy Ridley without a light saber in this one bodes well for her future after the Star Wars sequels have all finally played out.
This time out, more time is spent setting up Poirot's backstory, which sacrifices some time in the earlier version given to character and plot development, but Branagh's Poirot is eminently watchable throughout. The plot is therefore a bit more truncated, and spiced up a bit dramatically and physically this time around, but nonetheless making for a satisfying experience, and hitting, eventually, all the plot points necessary. I actually wish they'd simply added the scenes they didn't in order to do this, but it wasn't my $100M to spend, or my flick to edit, so you get out of the theatre maybe fifteen minutes faster.
If you don't know anything about either version, I ain't telling you whodunit here.
The reveal at the end is everything you'd want, and this version adds a touching epilogue to scratch an itch and pay off an earlier dialogue scriptease. (And if that isn't a word, I have dibs on it from here on out.) They even managed to set up the possible sequel, which one might even hope for, provided it's another Scott/Branagh vehicle as well.
It's one of the (sadly few) decent movies to go see this year, doubly so in the current climate of well-earned Hollywood-bashing. And AFAIK, no one in this flick is currently under indictment or accusation by the current (and overdue) Committee On Purging Rapists and Molesters From Hollywood.
So if you need something to do this weekend while you're continuing your boycott of the National Felony League, plunk your money down and see what movies used to be like when people told a good story to earn your ticket price.
My rating: Four stars.
Catch This Ride. It's First Class all the way to the end of the line.
Oscar bait? Hell, yes, it is, especially in this utterly dreadful year of mostly craptastic dungheaps fit mainly for burning.
Come nomination time, I expect you'll see this one again.
*(Off the top of my head, The Three Musketeers with Oliver Reed and Michael York was as good or better than the Gene Kelly version - and the 1990s Disney attempt sucked poop; Ben Hur with Heston surpassed the silent attempt, The Four Feathers with Beau Bridges and Jane Seymour beat the pants off any versions before or since; Beatty's Heaven Can Wait was much better than Waiting For Mr. Jordan; and Spielberg's Always was superior to A Guy Named Joe. Note the talent involved, and see if you can figure out the key to getting over the bad sequel hurdle. That you'd struggle to find six more major examples in the 51,000 or so movies the MPAA has stuck numbers on since only 1934 proves my point about "counting them on my fingers" and the low-percentage odds in attempting a sequel, especially of an already-good movie.)