A man is found murdered on a train that has the world's greatest detective as a passenger.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, and Michelle Pfeiffer
Review by Jon Kissel
The trope of the detective whose mental irregularities manifest as brilliance has mostly been a part of recent television, since it provides an easy way into the protagonist as anti-hero, another preferred path for ‘prestige’ TV. House, The Good Doctor, Sherlock, Monk, even my beloved Hannibal are all examples, and Kenneth Branagh provides a cinematic equivalent in his adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. A story that has many versions, I don’t know if earlier ones needed to find a reason for star detective’s Hercule Poirot’s forensic genius, but it’s 2017 on this version’s release, so Poirot is portrayed as being crippled with the burning need to have everything in its right place, which therefore makes him adept at finding irregularities. Whether or not this added depth of character makes Branagh’s version better or worse is an open question, and one the film doesn’t spend enough time caring about. As much as Branagh attempts to update Agatha Christie’s mystery for the present, there doesn’t seem to be much to justify its existence beyond a popular taste for true crime stories.
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but writing about classic movies through a modern lens is difficult. I don’t know how novel a film was for its time, and its novelty may have been imitated so much that it loses all meaning, to say nothing of the evolution of tones and tastes over the decades. In the case of The Third Man, a film acclaimed as the greatest British movies ever made and currently #73 on Sight and Sound’s top 250 list of lists, this is especially true. Gray morality and anti-heroes were a new thing in the late 1940’s, but they’ve been old hat now for a long time. The modern version of The Third Man is easily imaginable now, but the original is so skewed in tone that it’s like looking at the chart of man’s evolution. Carol Reed’s film is barely walking upright while later films like Chinatown or Blade Runner or Collateral or Nightcrawler are running on two legs.
HBO’s original programming, consisting of series, movies, and miniseries, have a clear laggard in that trio. The movies don’t have anywhere near the cultural persistence that either series or miniseries have, despite HBO’s considerable marketing and development prowess. The standard format for feature-length films are adaptations of real events, and the strictures of sticking to history don’t let the actors do much more than impressions of well-known figures while the directing is utilitarian A-to-B event tracking. These are sometimes great, like the you-are-there history of Path to War or Conspiracy of the early-aughts, but have lately been Al Pacino in a series of bizarre wigs or make-up as he trolls for Emmy awards by playing disgraced public figures. Literary adaptations are more comfortable in the miniseries category (Empire Falls, Olive Kitteridge), and after reading the Wikipedia plot description of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, that may have been the better route. Ramin Bahrani attempts to cram a lot of plot and character motivation into 100 minutes, and ends up exchanging believable arcs and actions for ostentatious camera movement and bludgeoning political satire. If this is the art that survives the Second Civil War, we’re in trouble.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a terrible title. I always hated calling How I Met Your Mother HIMYM but then I typed it two three times so from here on I’ll refer to this movie as IDFAHITWA. Shit, that sucked too - “this movie” - Perfect!
This movie is about Ruth, a nursing assistant played by Melanie Lynskey who embarks on a vigilante mission with neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) to find who broke into her home and stole her computer and grandma’s silverware. Ruth is introduced as a fairly depressing character without much going for her, crappy house, bad neighborhood, lonely, weird neighbors, etc. When she is robbed and police do nothing it is a breaking point for her to seek justice. Ruth describes her brand of justice as not wanting people to be assholes anymore. That’s a big ask but a noble one. Between plaster casting a footprint in the garden and using her find my laptop app she is able to eventually track down the perpetrators with the help of Tony who joined primarily it seemed because he was into the chance to bust out his weaponry towards the aim of moral justice.
I’m not a fan of the review style that breaks down scene by scene and retells the story so I’ll end by summarizing- a string of events featuring multiple laugh worthy gags and a few oh shit moments and one very predictable gun malfunction lead this movie to a satisfying conclusion.
Brilliantly weird, A-.
Watching this movie in 2016 for the first time is a bit hard because since this movie came out, at least 40 more movies have dropped with the exact same premise and even some of the exact same scenes. None of them were particularly good so I wasn’t expecting much from this movie except good acting and I believe that’s what I got.
The movie starts out showing the Gallagher family as they get ready to go to a party and that’s basically all we get of them being a family. There are a few quick 2-3 minute scenes throughout that show them together, but none of it really does anything. It doesn’t really show them as a happy family rather than a group of people that are together.
Glenn Close is the highlight of the movie. She takes a slightly boring character (Crazed woman) and makes her intriguing, but all that Glenn does for the character doesn’t fix the movie. Alex has no real backstory or reason given as to why she went so crazy. What was it about this one night stand that made her snap? Was this built-up over years of bad relationships? There’s just nothing more given to us than she had a miscarriage and her father died of a heart attack.
Overall this movie is not great. I’m sure it was good and people loved it back when it came out in the 80’s, but watching it now it’s pretty mediocre with some really good acting. I’m giving the acting an A-, but the movie at most can get a C+.
I’ll give it a C.
Also I think the alternate ending was much better: https://youtu.be/GY_NQK7rJrY
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.