Re­boot on the right track

Lennox Herald - - THE TICKET -

For the sec­ond time on the big screen and fol­low­ing on from three tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tions – in­clud­ing, rather bizarrely, a Ja­panese ver­sion – one of Agatha Christie’s most beloved nov­els is brought to life.

Steer­ing the train on this oc­ca­sion is Ken­neth Branagh, with the Belfast-born di­rec­tor also groom­ing a hefty, hir­sute mous­tache to play fa­mous Bel­gian de­tec­tive Her­cule Poirot.

The fa­mil­iar story, adapted from Christie’s work by Blade Run­ner 2049 screen­play writer Michael Green, sees Poirot tested like never be­fore as he has to solve a puz­zling mur­der on the stranded tit­u­lar train amid 13 sus­pi­cious strangers be­fore the killer strikes again.

One may won­der what the point is in send­ing the Ex­press thun­der­ing down the tracks once again, but within this re­make’s first few mo­ments it’s easy to see why; ad­vances in film­mak­ing and a $55 mil­lion bud­get have al­lowed Branagh to frame Christie’s clas­sic in a never-be­fore-seen sump­tu­ous style.

The Brit uses 65mm cam­eras, mak­ing Ex­press one of very few movies to do so in re­cent decades, and cre­ates lav­ish, pic­turesque land­scapes that are a treat for the eyes.

Sun­sets and, par­tic­u­larly, snow­fall evoke mem­o­ries of the Hog­warts Ex­press’ mag­i­cal jour­neys in the Harry Pot­ter se­ries and the ex­pen­sive-look­ing props and sets are so pre­cise they’d win even the de­mand­ing Poirot’s ap­proval.

Branagh, per­haps recog­nis­ing how ver­bal in­ter­play dom­i­nates the story, utilises var­i­ous dif­fer­ent shots to add some diver­sity; peer­ing down from over­head, close-ups to em­pha­sise the im­por­tance of fa­cial ex­pres­sions be­ing used to evoke trust and pos­si­ble de­cep­tion and ter­rific track­ing shots of the full cast on the train.

And the for­mer Thor di­rec­tor is ev­ery bit as im­pres­sive in front of the cam­era. De­fy­ing fears that no-one bar David Suchet can do Poirot jus­tice, Branagh is much more than a gim­mick mous­tache; the de­tec­tive’s at­ten­tion to de­tail, hu­mor­ous, brave jabs at oth­ers and touch­ing re­flec­tive mo­ments are a joy to be­hold.

You’ll rarely find such an ex­pan­sive, big­name cast as this out­side of an Avengers movie and Michelle Pfeif­fer, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad and Derek Ja­cobi im­press.

No-one quite shines like Branagh, how­ever, and oth­ers, like Pené­lope Cruz and Olivia Col­man, get lost in the shuf­fle, while Daisy Ri­d­ley is so like Keira Knight­ley she could pass for a clone.

As fun as it is to see Poirot dis­sect sus­pects, the faceto-face in­ter­ro­ga­tion gets a bit repet­i­tive and while there are some changes to the story, this will be a tale very fa­mil­iar to many.

Branagh and his cam­era are the stars of this lux­u­ri­ous, ab­sorb­ing re­boot wor­thy of its source ma­te­rial.

More Poirot is hinted at come the cli­max, and I, for one, would be de­lighted to see Branagh take on another case.

I mous­tache you a ques­tionKen­neth Branagh’s Poirot

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