In the Summer when I first heard about this film I was aghast. "Oh NO!", I thought. "Did this film really have to be re-made when Sidney Lumet made such a wonderful job of it in 1974?" And then finding out that it was Kenneth Branagh's brainchild to re-do Agatha Christie's classic novel, I dismissed it as being one of his 'vanity projects', though I knew I'd still have to see it.
It's clear that anybody who is not familiar with the original film version will enjoy this more by not automatically making mental comparisons which, I found, in virtually all respects, favour the earlier one. I do retain a particular affection for the Lumet, having seen that original at least three times on the cinema screen shortly after its release, and maybe half a dozen times since on video. In fact I'll declare more than that. When I last compiled a Top 50 list of my all-time favourite films (admittedly over 20 years ago), the 1974 version featured on it. I'm inclined to think that were I to update that list now it could yet maintain its place there.
That is not to say that this new version doesn't have its merits. Far from it. On the whole I was quite impressed by what Branagh's done, changing details - such as having more scenes enacted outside the train. However, the downside of that is that it loses the trapped-in, claustrophobic atmosphere which pervaded the earlier film.
Now a brief mention of the stars, too many to single out apart from Kenneth B. himself (director of this film, too) presiding over all with his circus-ringmaster (and scarcely believable) distractingly extravagant moustache. I felt Albert Finney as Poirot in 1974 was astonishing and remarkable, not adjectives I'd apply to Branagh in the same role, though he doesn't do at all badly either.
This new film has a galaxy mixture of big and middle-ranking stars, maybe not quite as many names of the then first rank that the 1974 film boasted, but nevertheless, this must be the most notable ensemble of big names appearing in one film since........well, since 1974. (Afterthought: Perhaps Branagh's own 'Hamlet' of 1997 runs it close for star-heavy appearances.)
I felt the screenplay was not as lucid as in the earlier film, the interviews which Poirot has with each of the suspects in turn being patchier and of unequal weight, and a bit more confusing too.
I simply cannot omit mentioning the soundtrack. The 1974's music is one of that film's true 'stars', tracks that have rightly become classics and occasionally feature in concert programmes, particularly the title credit music and waltz. When I hear them they still give me the goose-bumps. Written by the late (and gay) classical composer, Richard Rodney Bennett, I think it's one of the most truly marvellous film soundtracks of the last 50 years or more.
Now for this new version, Branagh has turned to his regular composer-collaborator, Patrick Doyle, whose music, I'm afraid, I've never thought that much of - and here what he's written is nothing like as memorable as is Bennett's.
Despite my qualified verdict I did like this film more than I thought I would. I'm sure it'll cause raised eyebrows when I award it a higher rating than I did for yesterday's 'Call Me by Your Name'. But so what? Too bad. I enjoyed it more...........7.
2 hours ago