I am loathe to put the boot in to any film but the barrage of publicity for this, plastered all over the BBC news and chat shows - Graham Norton and Andrew Marr interviewing the phalanx of "stars" in a suitable subservient way - has pushed this reviewer over the edge. It is a film that didn't need a remake since the original was perfectly acted and nuanced. Perhaps that is half the problem - I know the "solution" and therefore the denouement is no surprise- but there is something more deeply flawed with this movie. Firstly - that moustache. Ridiculous and in the end it becomes something that you stare at and wonder just why something so outrageously stupid would NOT get in the way of what words the actor is actually saying. You stop listening and just try and see where it is stuck on. Branagh stomps around the various scenes like Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia (even down to walking along the top of the snow-covered carriage as if he was king of the castle) and then addresses the suspects in a scene that is reminiscent of The Last Supper painting. Everywhere he goes everyone knows him. Absolutely everyone. The opening scenes in Jerusalem are unnecessary and only serve to raise Branagh/Poirot into God like status where the population of the city are happy to take his word and trample a suspect policeman to death. No jury, no trial, lynch mob rules. All of which seems to bother the guardian of justice not one jot.
Cut to the train - at last. We hear that the train is full and that Poirot will have to share a cabin for at least one night. As we discover that there are just 12 passengers on the whole train I wondered what happened to all the other empty berths on the other carriages. Let's just pass over that one. We are now introduced to the various characters. I don't know how much these stars got paid for this movie but boy, apart from Michelle Pfeiffer, they don't have too many words to say. The main action is sitting around looking suspiciously at each other. Depp is mostly unintelligible evidenced by his recent performance on the Graham Norton show where he found it difficult to string two words together. It is only Branagh who has the dialogue - and he works it as hard as he can into some kind of Shakespearean dialogue. Judi Dench plays the part Wendy Hiller took in the 1974 film. I know Dench is supposed to be the public's "favourite" but Hiller's sneering haughtiness will remain one of the highlights of the earlier film long after this one is forgotten.
In the novel and the 1974 film the train gets stuck in a drift. Here it is struck by an avalanche and teeters on a wooden viaduct. Ain't CGI wonderful? The engine is derailed but never fear he comes a gang of ten workers who will dig away the snow and pull a 100 ton engine back on to the tracks - with their bare hands. Marvellous.
And the music score? Possibly the most disappointing part of the whole film when one considers the classic Richard Rodney Bennett score for the 1974 film. Patrick Doyle's offering is just insipid and uninspired. The closing credits roll with some vapid pop song burbling away in the background.
Well, if you've never seen the 1974 film and you don't know the ending you may enjoy this but perhaps you should locate that earlier film and wait for this to end up on the £3 shelf at Tesco. It would appear, to judge by the final quip by Poirot in the film that Branagh is planning to redo Death on the Nile. God help us.