Tag Archives: Murder on the Orient Express

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: 196 – Knives Out

Writer-director Rian Johnson’s playful, knockabout whodunnit Knives Out has been receiving praise for its screenplay that we feel isn’t quite warranted, and isn’t much to look at either – but it’s a lark, and one that carries some unexpected sociopolitical commentary. José argues that Johnson doesn’t learn enough from the films upon which his pastiche is based, making too little of both the wonderful cast he’s assembled and the wonderful sets he’s had assembled for him, though the film isn’t devoid of flair or structural neatness. Mike was with the film more or less all the way, though suggests that it won’t play as well in the distracted environment of the home, the minutiae of the countless plot details easy to lose track of as one tries to make sense of them. So it’s worth a watch, but it’s neither as elegant nor as charming as we’d like.

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




Mike hadn’t seen Sidney Lumet’s classic version of Murder on the Orient Express so we saw it together and basically compare the two but keep the focus on the original.  We discuss which performances we prefer in each version, what we make of the differences in style and tone between the film, which film was better directed and who was the better Poirot? We also ask whether  the action sequences in the new film were quite necessary. We don’t agree but Mike mounts a good defence.


José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

Murder on the Orient Express – Eavesdropping at the Movies – Ep 18 – 14th November 2017


Mike and I discuss the form of these Agatha Christie film adaptations, how Agatha Christies’s types in the novels here intersect with star personaes; we disagree about Kenneth Branagh as a film star though agree on him as an actor and director; we praise Michele Pfeiffer above all but also Johnny Depp, Lucy Boynton, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Derek Jacobi). Has Branagh beefed up his part at the expense of the other stars? We disagree. Is the film a successful whodunnit? Are the action scenes necessary? Is the film suspenseful? Is it too CGI? Does the end bring out moral ambiguity? We did not discuss how collective revenge in the absence of justice connects to modern times though we should have. We did agree that it’s a film we’d happily watch again if shown on ITV on a Sunday afternoon.

Jose Arroyo and José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film