Tag Archives: Jamie Dornan

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 401 – A Haunting in Venice

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Kenneth Branagh continues to direct himself as Hercule Poirot in his ongoing project to make Agatha Christie’s classic whodunnits all about him. A Haunting in Venice has less focus on the process and nuances of investigation than its predecessors, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile – and those already felt the need to punctuate the procedural with action, lest the audience get bored – but shows just as much interest in Poirot’s story, at the expense of the suspects’ and victims’. It’s safe to say that these adaptations are not what they could, or should, be.

Branagh enthusiastically uses dramatic angles and camera movement; wonderful to see but for the fact that he does so with little motivation, failing to create with them the effects and mood that he could. The casting disappoints José, who looks to these sorts of films for the stars of yesteryear who fill the ensemble, bringing their histories and personas to their portrayals of the snooty dowagers, nervous accountants and so on; here, no such stars are present. A few current names pepper the cast list, but most of the players that this whodunnit hosts form a who’s who of “who’s that?”

We’re already into diminishing returns with Branagh’s Poirot series, the films increasingly missing the point of their genre – how can the audience play along with the mystery and marvel at the intricacy of its solution when we’re rushed past the details in favour of hearing about the detective’s inner life yet again? Mike found an element of that to like back in Murder on the Orient Express, but even a heart as large and generous as his can find no room for it any more. It’s simply not good enough.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 342 – Belfast

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

Kenneth Branagh writes and directs a drama based on his own childhood in Belfast, at the time the Troubles began. We discuss the portrayal of a happy family, the lack of effect almost every visual decision has, problems with the storytelling, and the nostalgia that runs throughout the film. It’s not a skilful film, but it is a likeable one.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 114 – Robin Hood (2018)

We argue about a film that neither of us can possibly claim is good, but in which one of us found things to like. Hot on the heels of watching Errol Flynn’s Technicolor classic a few weeks ago, we catch the latest telling of the Robin Hood folk tale, fittingly titled Robin Hood, a desaturated, guns and geezers-inflected version that transports us to a somewhat otherworldly, sci-fi-ish version of the medieval Midlands. Church and state are in cahoots, the poor are exploited – and it doesn’t look like they have much left to exploit anyway – and with Sherwood Forest nowhere to be seen, the only green thing around is Robin of Loxley.

We can both agree that no matter the intention, the film is poorly directed, though José would decry it more than Mike, who tries to look beneath the incoherent camerawork and dull set pieces to find areas of interest, such as the tangible sense of growing revolution and the charming Black Hawk Down version of the Third Crusade, complete with shoulder-mounted arrow bazookas, why not. We have good and bad words to say about the performances in equal measure, Jamies Foxx and Dornan standing out but Ben Mendelsohn and star Taron Egerton failing to meet expectations set by their previous performances. And Tim Minchin, with the best will in the world, isn’t an actor.

Mike takes issue with the film’s conception of Robin; a character learning to become the hero is one thing, but simply being nudged and told by everyone around him how to do so makes for poor character development. Little John is so significant he’s known here only as John, José speculating that as the biggest actor in the film, Jamie Foxx had the role improved at the expense of balance. We do find common ground in praising aspects of the world and visual design, but it’s always with the caveat that the direction generally works better to obscure than exhibit it.

All this and more in an edition packed with disagreement. Arguments and quibbles aplenty!

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.