The Two Reviews: Murder on the Orient Express and Loving Vincent

Murder on the Orient Express
(Director, Kenneth Branagh. Featuring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Lesley Odom, Derek Jacobi and Sergei Polunin)

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Everyone is on the same train i.e. The Orient Express. There is a murder most hideous and everyone is a suspect. I enjoyed this movie from beginning to end. It is classic Agatha Christie, with light whimsical touches. It has Poirot’s idiosyncratic habits and personal vanity (more humour), intrigue and theatrical reveal. And there’s a long list of bit-parts played by an impressive line-up of actors all squeezing into the train carriages, including – to my pleasant surprise – the Ukraine ballet dancer Sergei Polunin, the subject of a documentary film earlier this year (called Dancer). Apart from the spectacular scenery in the ice-bound Alps, the photography is excellent. There are impressive  creative camera angles, low to high elevation shots and beautiful portrait close-ups as each suspect is interrogated. Let me say that again: the portrait close-ups are very impressive, and are wonderful in showing off the nuanced talents of fine actors. There is a few flat bits in the film. And if you know the story, there are no surprises. Rather, the joy is in seeing each actor appear on stage to do their bit in the light and then retreat into the dark. I like it. It’s not a masterpiece but I cannot imagine it was ever intended to be, but it is fun.

Reviewed by Robin Stevens – Rated 3.5/5

Loving Vincent
(Directed by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman. Featuring Douglas Booth, Eleanor Tomlinson and Saoirse Ronan)

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Loving Vincent is a brilliantly animated film, using hand-painted stills over photographic stills of actors. It is about Vincent Van Gogh, and how he might have actually died. The film, however, was for me a great disappointment and it doesn’t even come close to the rave reviews it has received I believe. The animated painting in the style of Van Gogh is truly marvelous, and it brings to ‘life’ some of his most famous paintings. But nothing else about the film is commendable. The script is contrived and borders on the stupid. Apart from getting bored before the film was half way through, as a big Van Gogh fan I was irritated that his extensive letters in which his life is on display and which so easily could have been the foundation of a brilliant and intriguing script was ignored in favour of soap opera pulp writing. Apart from this, the sound is awful. It’s like listening to a 1970s radio play where someone knocks on a piece of wood near the microphone and then the actor says “Is that someone knocking at the door?” The director and sound engineer should have been arrested at this point and sent to film correctional school. It is a shame, because the artwork, which is impressive and extensive, is the only thing worthwhile in this dull film.

Reviewed by Robin Stevens – Rated 2.5/5 (mainly just for the artwork). 

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