(4 / 5)
Agatha Christie wrote many murder mystery books and plays which all sought to reveal the savage nature of people. Strip away the finery and social class and we are all capable of the most brutal acts.
One of her main characters was Hercule Poirot a man that wears a distinctive moustache, cannot have eggs that are different sizes and is probably one of the greatest (fictional) detectives who ever lived. He is often mistaken for French because of his accent, but is in fact Belgian. While one case has just wrapped he is called away to another, to get there he must board The Orient Express.
Kenneth Branagh takes on the role of the Belgian detective. Like Sherlock Holmes he has a sharp eye and when there is a crime considers it his duty to solve it. However he doesn’t so much do it for thrills rather than a task that must be undertaken to set the world right. He could be considered just another pedantic gentleman that enjoys food, drink, art and company, but when he must he sees into the nature of the individual and human nature itself. The performance allows for fluffy fun and sharp seriousness.
As well as taking on the main role Branagh works behind the camera. He comes with more than a few neat visuals. Long unbroken shots of moving through the train, overhead shots where the location and characters seem like pieces on a board-game and looking at the characters through the tilted edges of glass creating the effect of dual faces. As an actor as well he knows how to talk to his cast so solid performances from all.
On the train are many passengers from all walks of life. An Austrian professor (Willem Defoe), a count (Sergio Polunin), a governess (Daisy Ridley), a missionary (Penelope Cruz), a widow (Michelle Pfeiffer), a Salesman (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a doctor (Leslie Odom Jr.), a Princess (Judi Dench) being accompanied by her maid (Olivia Colman), a gangster named Ratchett (Johnny Depp) that feels his life may be in danger, he is accompanied with his butler (Derek Jacobi) and assistant (Josh Gad).
While the train marches along one night lightning strikes the mountain sending snow down, blocking the tracks. It is easily dealt with in due time, but not all of the passengers are present, Ratchett has been murdered. Who did such a thing to an unquestionably bad man? That is the question and through clues, cross referenced with alibi’s and Poirot’s deduction skills the truth will be found.
This is probably the definition of an all star cast. Every one of the passengers is a big star. This takes away from being truly engaging but it also helps hide the identity. If this was a cast of lesser profile actors, or unknowns and only one A-Lister then we’d instantly be drawn the the one star and suspect them. But being that they are all big names there clearly wont be any favouritism.
There are many more books to be adapted if this one does very well. It could, considering it’s great cast. If the studio does go on to do more then they will. It is odd being that everything has to become a franchise now, but still there is nothing that is building up for the next movies, you can go into this one and know nothing about Poirot, you will learn by the end and be satisfied while the credits roll.
All that being said this is a well crafted and acted movie that has an expert both behind and in-front of the camera as well as having one of the greats works by one of the greatest writers in the genre. How could it go badly? I’m not sure but I’m glad it didn’t.
(4 / 5)
When looking at Murder Mystery stories it is extremely rare to find someone as talented and well-loved as Agatha Christie. On the 25th November 1952 Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’, opened in the West End and has been running ever since, meaning the play is celebrating its 60th Anniversary. To celebrate this momentous occasion the production company have taken the show on tour around the UK allowing a whole new audience to watch and enjoy.
Being an avid fan of Dame Agatha Christie I was very keen to watch this play as I wanted to see how similar the play would be to some of her most well-known work such as Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I must say that the play certainly does not disappoint and holds all of the key Agatha Christie characteristics to make it recognisable and familiar. Everything about ‘The Mousetrap’ seems very familiar as though we’ve read the story before. The play is set in a country house with oak-panelled walls with hidden back stairs and linking passages. It is the sort of house someone can leave the room by one door and reappear through another so you can never be too sure of where every character is. A snow blizzard takes hold and all of the roads soon become blocked to add to their problems the telephone is not working and on the radio there is a story about a murderer on the loose. The house is full of the usual range of Cluedo style characters that have never met each other before. Is there a chance that one of these people could be the murder? All of the characters have their own secrets and as you would expect from an Agatha Christie mystery, the story is full of twists and red herrings.
Three of the play’s characters Sgt Trotter, Mr Paravicini and Miss Casewell.
The characters are extremely well-defined and all very different and eccentric in their own ways. The cast of the play work really well together. Anna Andresen and Nick Barclay create a fitting partnership for Mollie and Giles Ralston showing well their nerves about their first attempt at running a Guest House. Sarah Whitlock portrays brilliantly the straight-talking, no-nonsense Mrs Boyle. Whom I thought had similar characteristics to that of Miss Marple as portrayed by Dame Margaret Rutherford. Amy Downham gives us a very secretive and mysterious Miss Casewell leaving the audience with many questions as to whom she could be. Gregory Cox is wonderful as Mr Paravicini and somehow seems to have created the character similar to that of Hercule Poirot. Oliver Gully is fantastically mad as Christopher Wren positively bursting with energy. Tony Boncza is ever so the retired Army type as Major Metcalf and Alan Magor played the part of Police Sergeant Trotter, a very good portrayal of a typical Agatha Christie detective putting all of the clues together and drawing all the attention of the audience.
Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple two characters created by Agatha Christie.
I simply must mention the divine set that was created for the play which was made in such a way that it felt homely and inviting for the audience. The use of lamps on stage bought a sense of comfort for the audience and also an element of reality. The large wooden panels with the period furniture gave the audience a wonderful setting for the story to play out.
The UK tour trailer for ‘The Mousetrap’.
I highly urge everyone to see ‘The Mousetrap’ whether you are an Agatha Christie fan or not. It is a wonderful ‘who done it’ mystery that is guaranteed to get you trying to solve the case. With endless twists and turns the audience are kept on the edge of their seats. But you must remember that EVERYONE is a suspect!
The Mousetrap is currently on a nationwide tour and tickets are available via this link –http://mousetrapontour.com/