Murder on the Orient Express 05.11.17
Murder on the Orient Express. It's a film about the luxury train, with a murder on it. What else is there to say of this enjoyable, nothing-special film?
I went for visual stimulation and escapism and I think it's what I got given, like caviar or some other overrated thing. I knew I would get a glimpse of how the other half lived in this movie, the glamour and the glitz. The train looks ridiculously good, even after the avalanche that knocks it temporarily off the rails. The train, in fact, is the real star, along with the mountainous backdrops.
What I'm left with, in fact, are edgy, repressed reflections, tainted by a killjoy spirit I didn't know I had. Given the opulence and style of the vehicle, I would have loved to see the high-class service of the Orient Express give way to bare minimum. Have jewel-encrusted Judy Dench outside on a rock, chewing on a rabbit raw with her hands. Watch civilization fall apart. These are passengers who are barely knocked out of their comfort zone, despite the potential predicament of being stranded in the mountains. Throughout the film, I wondered at Kenneth Branagh's Poirot and his fastidious attention to personal appearance, including his ludicrous moustache. Oh, that the train had been derailed a little more, and that moustache had become shaggy and unkempt. Poirot in his socks and underwear, numbing the pain of some wound from the crash with morphine, to which he gets addicted. Poirot and his dark side, as he becomes the thing he hates. A dirty Poirot.
We got none of this, of course, and perhaps I'm missing the point, by expressing the desire for something more brutally inconveniencing. What we got were lots of pristine characters – too many characters for too little time – looking dapper, without a hair out of place. They all looked annoyed at the delay that the murder created. The service continued to be five-star. The haute cuisine kept coming.
Murder on the Orient Express is really a fantasy about the super rich, of an age when that kind of wealth appears wholesome and romantic. There is no talk of the 1%, or right wing – left wing. The only raised voices and passions involve murder or punctuality. We are meant to be amused by the pedantry of a carefully-coiffured Poirot sending a poor Middle-Eastern boy out to get boiled eggs that fit his exacting measurements. But there is something slightly off about this elitist luxury, one I would have loved to puncture with food supplies running out, the class divide between passengers and staff blurring, and the murder becoming a side show to a bigger crime, of the remoteness of a five-star bubble that so few people enter.