Murder on the Orient Express *****

Since 1974 there has been at least five major productions of Murder on the Orient Express, so how do the makers keep the latest incarnation fresh and appealing?

Well they have done a number of things, first and foremost, put a great director in the chair with a great actor in the lead. In this case both are the same person, Kenneth Branagh, who dominates this film with a far richer, multi faceted Poirot than any I have seen on screen, big or small. His Hercule Poirot is an eccentric, sentimental, razor sharp detective. He also gives time to generating an in-depth portrait of why Poirot is the self proclaimed ‘Great Detective’ By doing this, new audiences will have some understanding of Agatha Christies hero.

Orient photo 1The second step is to populate the Orient Express with a full cast of A-list actors. All deliver first class performances, including the younger stars who really impress next to their noble elders.

Third, you create an atmosphere of claustrophobia mystery and fear. This is achieved by making the sets so tight that, for several scenes, the only place to put the camera is in the ceiling.

Finally, you place the train in a totally realistic setting, both historically (by referencing actual events with just the names changed) and visually (with restrained by convincing use of CGI to convince you they are in the mountains).

I think we are guaranteed another outing for the ‘Great Detective’ fairly soon.

I left the cinema feeling very satisfied by a great story well told.

The full 5 out of five stars for Mr Branagh and company.

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The Legend of King Arthur ***** Presented by The Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC)

This autumn sees the welcome return of the Spiegeltent, venue for GSC’s new production of The Legend of King Arthur.

This brand new play has been written by Caroline Devlinwho has given us a delightful, action packed, humorous and family friendly tale, just right for this time of year.

More than that, she has produced a script befitting the multitalented company, taking and using recognisably Shakespearean plot devises to great effect.

We have the Fool as narrator, babies separated at birth, family treachery, songs, and so forth.

For children, it is a great introduction to the wider world of live drama.

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The players are very few in number but, by incredible costume and lighting changes, plus our willing suspension logic, the stage is filled with a massive menage of characters.

A young girl changes to aged monk to soldier in moments and we applaud in delight.

The founders of GSC, Sarah Gobran and Matt Pinches, can be very proud of what they have achieved yet again.

I fully recommend this delightful play to anybody who can get to Guildford before it ends on 5th November.

Truly a 5 star production.

 

Atomic Blonde ***

A film for adults during the school holidays is always welcome and this one does not by-and-large disappoint.

A spy thriller set at the end of the cold war makes a rich environment for fast paced violent action, peppered with some bare flesh and ‘adult cuddles’ that will sit well with Bond fans. Atomic Blonde There are also enough twists and turns in the plot to keep Le Carré readers happy.

But that is also where the problem lays.

The first hour and thirty minutes give a really good film worth 4 stars if not five.

However, as we reach the climax, it all gets so confusing.

I lost the plot completely.  Call me Confused of Guildford.

It must have taken me a good couple of hours of replaying the scenes in my head to work out who was as the good, the bad and the ugly.  I think I understand now, but I could still be wrong.

If you do see this film, I suspect you may get the ending far sooner than your humble writer.

For that reason alone I give this film 3 out of five stars.