Murder on the Orient Express

Dream cast.

Visually sumptuous.

Fab footage for steam train fans (and let’s face it, who isn’t a fan of steam trains?).

But…

Despite all of the above, and without wishing to sound ungrateful and churlish, Kenneth Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express” never quite lives up to expectations.

Judi Dench.

Johnny Depp.

Michelle Pfeiffer.

Penelope Cruz

Derek Jacobi.

The list of this amazing cast is endless, but, with the exception of Mr. Branagh who produces/directs/stars in the film, they all seem under-utilised, Judi Dench in particular.

The film is a visual treat, undoubtedly, with lots of lovely footage of the Orient Express chugging its slow and stately way across snowy Europe.  Never have the Swiss Alps looked so gorgeous.

Avalanche stops the train.  A murder occurs while the train is stranded.  Whodunit?

And I can’t spoil the plot for you, so let’s leave it there.  I knew, of course, who did it, having seen the 1974 film – which has an even more breathtaking cast than the 2017 version, if that were possible.

I thoroughly enjoyed this remake, loved the lush period detail, loved the train, loved the clothes, loved the elegance.

Very much enjoyed Mr. Branagh’s less caricatural portrayal of Hercule Poirot, though, if I might be so bold – what’s with the moustache/s, Mr. Branagh?  Downright weird.

But.

I don’t really see what this film achieves, other than making M. Poirot a little more thoughtful and a whole lot more theatrical.
Do go see it.

Lovely film.

But not, I fear, a great film.

Victoria & Abdul

Oh dear.

What a let down.

The story, that of the unlikely friendship between an ageing Queen Victoria and her Indian servant, is not only a delectable one, but the additional fact that Abdul Karim’s diaries were only recently discovered is also thrilling.

Add the incomparable Judi Dench to the mix, and we should have had the blockbuster to beat all costume-historical-sweeping-blockbuster-epic-y thingies.

Except we don’t.

Judi Dench is her usual incomparable self.  Not one word of criticism about her performance.

She is absolutely perfect as Queen Victoria.Perfect.

But for the rest of the cast…yet again, at the risk of repeating myself, what a let-down.

Stellar names delivering flat performances, with Eddie Izzard a notable exception.

I haven’t read the original book, nor do I know enough about that period of British & Indian history to speak with any authority, but I’m pretty sure that an Indian servant like Mohammed would not have slightly cheeked off the British, used words like “bloody” and been so, well, so 21st century in his open disdain for the British and their way of life.

Also, and I may be over-estimating Queen Victoria, but would she really not have known the background to the Koh-i-Noor?  One of her prized pieces of jewelllery?

And now let’s move onto young Ali Faizal, who plays the charming, handsome and likeable Abdul Karim.

Great eye-candy, totally, but what a sadly one-dimensional portrayal.

The actor is utterly charming, and you like Abdul unwaveringly, but other than smiling sweetly and affectionately at HM, what else does he do?

Victoria and Abdul
Judi Dench (left) as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal (right) as Abdul Karim

Lovely visuals, as one would expect, but that was it.

Didn’t care about any of the other characters, they were all so 2 dimensional.

Liked Ali Faizal.

Loved Judi Dench.

But left the cinema feeling slightly cheated.

This movie could’ve been fabulous.

Could’ve been epic.

Instead, it was formulaic, and even a little silly at times.

But, having said that, it is still worth seeing for the wonderful Judi Dench.