Murder. Sheer murder.

Kenneth Branagh made a great Benedick and Frankenstein but his interpretation of Poirot in the 2017  film  Murder on the Orient Express is just dreadful. The one saving grace in the whole film was Olivia Colman, whose relationship with the Judi Dench character was credible and developed on screen beautifully.

The Maid in Murder on the Orient Express

I could bear Johnny Depp as the foul, paranoid murder victim, but there is little else to recommend this version in preference to reading the book or watching the sublime Albert Finney version of the film.

The joy of Agatha Christie’s writing is the formula she sticks to – Poirot is stern but likeable (he’d never wave a gun around) and the solution to the crime is only revealed in a final denouement, not drip-fed in case the audience gets bored. And don’t get me started on Christie’s lack of chase scenes. I can’t think of a single one in all her books. Certainly not down a rickety scaffold bridge on which is precariously balanced a train full of people.

Film adaptations can be wonderful and, indeed, I enjoyed Branagh’s Frankenstein so it’s not the man himself. There are just too many differences from the book and from Poirot himself as a literary construct. The train derailment and bridge pursuit were laughable, as was the somewhat random profusion of guns. The whole point of a murder mystery is to see if you can reach the solution before the detective and the heavy-handed laying on of clues made that impossible. The line-up of suspects at the denouement (such as it was) was, I suspect, more to keep all the A-list Hollywood celebrities happy than to ease the narrative.

Two hours I’ll never get back.

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Coming soon – ‘Vita & Virginia’

Gemma Arterton

Exciting news from the world of film, as filming begins on ‘Vita and Virginia’, starring Gemma Arterton (‘Their Finest’) as Vita Sackville-West, Elizabeth Debicki (‘The Night Manager’) as Virginia Woolf and the truly fabulous Isabella Rossellini (‘Blue Velvet’).

The film is based on the love letters of Woolf and Sackville-West, co-written by British director Chanya Button and Dame Eileen Atkins, whose Mrs Dalloway screenplay was both stunning and award-winning.

When the two subjects of the film met, Vita appears to have set her cap very firmly on seducing Virginia in London of the 1920s.  Director Chanya Button says: “Vita & Virginia will be a fresh, provocative study of creativity, passion, sex and sexuality; and it offers an exciting opportunity to bring the story behind the creation of Orlando, one of Virginia Woolf’s greatest works to life in a bold, vivid, contemporary way. With my lifelong passion for Woolf’s writing, it is a great privilege to be working with such brilliant women as Gemma and Elizabeth, to bring the lives of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf to the screen.”

How the literature and the relationship will be handled makes this an eagerly awaited release.