Murder on the Orient Express

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Directed by: Kenneth BranaghMurder On The Orient Express

Written by:  Agatha Christie (novel), Michael Green (screenplay)

Produced by: Kenneth Branagh, Winston Azzopardi

Starring:  Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp.

‘My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world’.

So simple and yet so effective, the line introducing the mastermind detective, takes the audience on a journey back in time. When travelling was still rough and dangerous, and the Orient Express became a showcase of luxury and comfort.

Regarded as one of Agatha Christie’s greatest achievements, the famous tale has been told many times before so you could say spoiler time has elapsed.Murder On The Orient Express

The most renowned adaptation may have been Sidney Lumet’s Oscar-winning film in 1974, but there was also a TV series in the early 2000’s starring Alfred Molina.

The novel, readily available since first published  in 1934, is one of my all-time favourites. So, not only did I know what I was getting myself into but how it ended. Literally. And there is a high chance you are in the same position I was. But you know what? Don’t let that stop you.

The film’s cast includes two Oscar winners: Judi Dench and Penélope Cruz; and four Oscar nominees: Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer and Johnny Depp. I could not turn down the opportunity to see such an incredible cast coming together and I was not disappointed as they delivered such intricate characters effortlessly.Murder On The Orient Express

When you have a great story and a great team of actors, there is only one thing that may make or break a project: the director. But not many people can handle directing, producing and acting like Kenneth Branagh.

The audience can feel how, just like at the Orient Express, every detail has been accounted for. There is no room for error and the result is a visually-appealing adaption that is a joy to the senses.

This is Kenneth Branagh’s second movie to be shot on 65mm film. The first was Hamlet (1996). After 21 years, Branagh decided to use this film format once again because, according to his own words, he felt inspired by some independent movies he had been watching. Mostly, films by Michael Haneke.

I love train journeys and I did some research about the Orient Express as I was writing this review. Apparently, there was one actual murder on The Orient Express. Maria Farcasanu was robbed and murdered by Karl Strasser, who pushed her out of the moving train, one year after Agatha Christie’s book was published.

The original Orient Express route (from October 4, 1883) was from Paris to Giurgiu (Romania) but shortened as the years went by. The real Orient Express disappeared from European timetables in 2009, a ‘victim of high-speed trains and cut-rate airlines’.

Mountain

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Directed by: Jennifer PeedomMOUNTAIN

Music by: Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Words by: Robert Macfarlane

Narration by: Willem Dafoe

Principal Cinematography by: Renan Ozturk

Sound design by: David White

Edited by: Christian Gazal and Scott Gray

Produced by: Jennifer Peedom and Jo-anne McGowan

Filmed in: Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, France, Greenland, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland, Tibet, USA.

This is a film about mountains, from the need of humans to dominate, to the terrible beauty, destruction and indifference of creation: Mountain is a reminder of how small we truly are.

I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions from: a state of relaxation, my eyes drinking up the beauty of the slow evolution of story, the film opening on breathtaking panoramas of mountain peaks; to my heart pounding as I watched the madness of people leaping and skiing and bike riding and base jumping from awesome, vertigo inducing heights while the climber smiles as he hangs from the tips of his fingers, the expression both beautific and insane.

Arrogance crumbles when confronted with the immovable yet breathing life of the earth.  We’re just a speck in comparison, to the timelessness of the mountain, just a tiny speak. MOUNTAIN

Sometimes it’s just so good to take humans out of the equation – yet, Mountain is about the fascination humans have of the serene, cold, majestic indifference of nature.

Living in a world of increasing, mad-made controlled comfort, some crave the risk that’s been taken from our everyday lives – to go seeking for that feeling of being alive because at any moment the earth may fall, the vertigo may win, the avalanche may swallow and the oxygen might run out.

How do you make a documentary about mountains?

How do you show the phenomenon of nature?

Mountain is a symphony of poetry, imagery and sound.

Richard Toretti, the artistic director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra collaborated with director, Jennifer Peedom to put together this memorable documentary.

And I use the word collaboration as Mountain is equally weighted between the senses with the soundtrack given as much weight as the words and cinematography.  A concept called synaesthesia that fascinated Richard, where the stimulation of the sense leads to another becoming more acutely attuned.

The soundtrack consists mostly of classical, a point of difference as most of the adrenaline-fuelled high stakes mountain sports are usually backed by punk rock.  Yet, the classical really highlights the majesty of the mountains.MOUNTAIN

And the combination of sound and stomach clenching cinematography creates a thrill as people fly down slopes or jump into the air 1000s of feet above the earth, death defying leaps, where there really must be an element of insanity, to even think, yet, it’s not about thinking, it’s about feeling alive.

Yet, there’s more to this film then just the stimulation of the senses.

Director, Jennifer Peedom who previously won world recognition after the release of the documentary, Sherpa (2015), also touches the idea of the change in the challenge of mountain climbing: the climb becoming a wait-in-line scenario rather than an adventure, where the real risk is taken by others like the Sherpas.  Yet, the controlled destruction sometimes slips from mans’ grip.

Hence the fascination.

‘Danger can hold terrible joys,’ says narrator, Willem Dafoe, quoted from a book written by Robert Macfarlane.MOUNTAIN

This is a beautiful moment in the film, one of many, with skiers drifting through powdery snow, weaving between the pines to the sound of a Beethoven symphony.

The thread that binds the film is poetics from Robert’s book, ‘Mountain of the Mind’: an exploration into the concept of the sublime.

‘In the branch of philosophy know as aesthetics the sublime is a quality of almost overwhelming greatness and magnitude’.

And in this modern world it is just so refreshing to be reminded of this greatness of nature.

A wonderful escape and reminder that the earth breaths, Mountain is both inspiring and thought-provoking = Food for the soul.