Murdering the Orient Express. March 2018.

Dear Rowley,

Much anticipation on buying the 2017 reboot of Murder on the Orient Express on DVD having missed the cinema release. The review could be truncated to two words: gobble gobble. What an expensive turkey and all the more bothersome because Kenneth ‘Hercule Poirot’ Brannagh has signed a three-moustache deal to ruin Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun as well. Oh my days!

It wasn’t so much the casting as the acting choices that made this reboot cluck like a gobbler facing the Christmas cleaver. Michelle ‘she who can do no wrong in my eyes’ Pfeiffer plays the Lauren Bacall role Mra Hubbard as a ditsy husband hunter. She gets a terrible opening reveal in a hideous plumb bias cut gown that does nothing for her and it’s all downhill from there. Mrs Hubbard – spoiler alert – is the architect of the murder. She needs more cunning and gravitas.

Johnny Depp’s cameo as the eventual corpse Mr Ratchet is basically a regurgitation of his Mr Wolf in Into the Woods. He’s most unpleasant as the mobster/murderer so is playing entirely to type. Fortunately he does die in the first half hour.

We turn to Brannagh as Poirot. I was not a fan of the histrionics of Albert Finney in the original Murder on the Orient Express being a lifelong fan of Ustinov. But Brannagh tries to make Poirot have sexiness and a romantic back story. Oh please my nerves. He even says to Ratchett ‘I don’t like your face’ in cod heroic tones. The moustache gives a much truer performance than Mr Brannagh who says at one point ‘I am the greatest detective in the world’ as Poirot never did in Christie’s novel. Dire!

After the murder is discovered, we find Poirot walking on the roof of the train. Quel Blague. The cinematography is apparently sublime but to me there was far too much CGI graphics. The original was much more beautifully shot let alone acted and the soundtrack of the first Murder was symphonic not silly suspense music.

I fear the Count and Countess Andrenyi were more The Addams Family than mysterious Balkan nobility though Lucy Boynton gets the best flapper costumes. Willem Dafoe is in Schindler’s List rather than Murder on the Orient Experess and Penelope Cruz’s Pilar Estravados – a role created by the Oscar-winning Ingrid Bergman – is more soothsayer in Up Pompeii than simple missionary who looks after ‘little brown babies’.

Judi Dench did a rather good Dame Maggie in Downton rather than a magisterial Princess Drafgomiroff as originally played by the marvellous Wendy Hillier with dry wit and impeccable comic timing. Who can forget Hillier telling Finney, ‘my doctor has advised against it’ when questioned why she never smiled.

Rather than sticking to the clues and beginning with the abduction and murder of Daisy Armstrong we are expected to wait for the reason why Ratchet was murdered. The original Murder set up the killing of ‘little Daisy Armstrong’ at the top and took us on ‘a journey’ on a stationary train. It was superb.

Brannagh’s accent and moustache are far too sexy for Poirot. Strike that, the moustache is LUDICROUS. It deserves a Best Supporting Prop Oscar. Michelle Pfeiffer gets worse after the discovery of Ratchet’s body. If only she had played it like Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray rather than Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

There is a hottie playing the train manager who keeps grabbing my attention and who I think holds all the overacting together. Derek Jacobi is having a ball as John Gielgud who I am afraid he can’t even lick a boot in this performance as the English butler. Besides, he plays it a bit too common to be an English butler.

All this crit and we haven’t even got half way through the movie which confirms it is a gob-a-gob-a-gobbler. Brannagh is no Sir Laurence Olivier despite his best efforts and even makes Finney’s Poirot sound understated by comparison.

I am wishing at this moment that instead of all twelve suspects stabbing Ratchet that Depp’s Ratchet went on a rampage and stabbed all of them instead. Now that would be a remake. We could call it Nightmare on the Orient Express.

God only knows what Brannagh will do to Nile and Evil Under the Sun. Both originals were definitive. Death on the Nile co-starred Bette Davis, Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury and Mia Farrow. Who are we going to get in the reboot? Judi Dench and Olivia Coleman (again), Rosie O’Donnell in the Salome Ottoborne role and Emily Blunt as the Farrow murderess role.

I could cast a mean Death on the Nile. Brannagh would get the boot in favour of Gary Oldman. Maggie Smith would play Mrs Van Skyler and Emily Blunt her long-suffering ladies’ companion Miss Bowers. Bette Midler would play Salome Ottoborne and I would cast Jennifer Lawrence as the Mia Farrow role.

There is one true performance in the 2017 Murder on the Orient Express and that is Daisy Riley as Miss Debenham. She’s super sharp as the capable, clipped Miss D. Her performance is outstanding because everyone else is eating the snowdrifts if not the scenery.

After another bottle of beer I could probably cast Evil Under the Sun as well to save some casting agent tens of thousands of pounds to fuck it up. I don’t know whether I can be bothered to watch the rest. After all, everyone who has seen the original knows what happens. That’s another Achilles heel of the reboot. And a Merry Christmas to all our readers. Until next time…