Posts Tagged ‘Kenneth Branagh’

A Tangle of Strangers

Murder on the Orient Express

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Lucy Boynton, Olivia Colman, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Odom Jr. Tom Bateman

Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn) both stars as the infamous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot  and directs another remake of the classic Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express featuring a stunning cast including Oscar nominees Michelle Pfeiffer (Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys), Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street) and Oscar winners Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love).

Sporting a profoundly massive mustache, Branagh takes Hercule Poirot to new extremes in this 21st century remake which is glossy and possesses sumptuous production design but like all extremely long train journeys is boring in the middle, despite the spectacular scenery.

Murder on the Orient Express is set in 1934 and starts off promisingly with a fantastic opening, attention grabbing scene at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and then moves on to the Orient Express, a luxury train service which travels from the chaotic train station in Istanbul right across Europe to Paris.

As the gangster Edward Ratchett is found murdered in his compartment, stabbed multiple times everybody becomes a suspect on the Orient Express and soon Poirot has to interview all the cast as the train is stuck in an icy tunnel somewhere over Yugoslavia. A tangle of strangers confined to a luxury train which has gone off the rails.

Everybody is not what they seems, which is natural considering this is an Agatha Christie novel and while the cast does an admirable job, it is really Michelle Pfeiffer who wows audiences with her demure yet slightly vicious portrayal of globetrotting husband seeker Caroline Hubbard who stands out among a fairly impressive ensemble cast. Pfeiffer really acts.

Dame Judi Dench’s turn as Princess Dragomiroff is hardly noticeable, while the best scenes in the film are between Pfeiffer and Branagh.

It is refreshing to see Michelle Pfeiffer making such a glorious big screen come back as she truly is a brilliant actress, not to mention singer – for she also sang the film’s original song at the end.

Without revealing who the killer is, needless to say Kenneth Branagh will be returning with another big screen adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel, Death on the Nile. Should be fascinating if only he would curb that mustache.

Audiences that enjoyed the original seventies film adaptations of the Agatha Christie novels, will enjoy this ambitious if slightly flawed remake. Think Evil Under the Sun.

Recommended viewing but whether the film will dazzle at the box-office in an increasingly cluttered 21st century CGI film line-up remains to be seen. Murder on the Orient Express gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

 

 

 

Operation Dynamo

Dunkirk

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Jack Lowden, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, James D’Arcy, Michael Fox, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keogh

Inception and The Dark Knight Trilogy director Christopher Nolan achieves a cinematic feat when he authentically tackles the war genre in his brilliant film Dunkirk starring a host of young British actors including One Direction lead singer Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead and Aneurin Barnard backed up by some Oscar nominees Tom Hardy (The Revenant) and Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn) and Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies).

Dunkirk shot entirely with Imax cameras and with crystal clear cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema who also worked on Interstellar and superb production design by Nathan Crowley is a cinematic experience of unparalleled proportions. Epic, immediate and accessible.

SURVIVAL IS VICTORY

Christopher Nolan keeps his war film as authentic as possible with hardly any use of CGI and using real planes, ships and shot mostly on location at Dunkirk in Northern France, the film immediately positions the viewer in the centre of Operation Dynamo: the forced evacuation by allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk between 26th May and the 4th June 1940 as the allies were hemmed in by the Nazi’s approaching from the Western Front and the Luftwaffe were bombing the evacuees at a rapid rate over the English channel.

With minimal dialogue, Dunkirk brilliantly retells this eventful evacuation from three different geographic perspectives Land, Sea and Air.

While the British soldiers viewed the evacuation as a retreat, the fact that so many of the soldiers were saved by civilian ships, was an absolute miracle: 338 226 mostly British, French and Dutch soldiers were rescued in possibly the biggest military evacuation in human history especially during a World War.

Dunkirk is told from three distinct perspectives, Tommy, the everyday 19 year old British soldier played by Fionn Whitehead, from air force fighter pilot Farrier played by Tom Hardy and also from the perspective of Mr Dawson played with determination by Mark Rylance who takes his civilian fishing boat across the channel to save soldiers aided by his son Peter played by Tom Glynn-Carney and his friend George played by Barry Keogh.

 

The best sequence in Dunkirk is when Collins, played by Jack Lowden (A United Kingdom), another fighter pilot crash lands in the icy channel and is trapped inside the sinking spitfire intercut with Tommy and a gang of young soldiers including Alex played by Harry Styles are trapped inside a precariously berthed ship which is being shot at from an unseen enemy as the tide is coming in on the beach.

Cillian Murphy (Inception, The Wind that Shakes the Barley) gives a harrowing portrayal of a rescued shell shocked soldier who is desperate to leave the slaughterhouse that was Europe during World War II and is horrified when he goes back to the shores of Dunkirk to rescue more soldiers under the stern command of Mr Dawson.

The visceral tension as the evacuation gets more dangerous and urgent aided by a frenetic original score by Hans Zimmer, makes Dunkirk a truly exceptional, economical and sublime war film, authentic and utterly immediate. Christopher Nolan places audiences directly in the centre of Operation Dynamo with ships sinking, aerial battles and underwater sequences which put James Cameron’s Titanic to shame, Dunkirk is a truly exceptional film.

Come Oscars 2018, Dunkirk should be recognized for being a masterful film, in terms of sound editing, cinematography and the sheer scale of the cinematic production.

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk is a cinematic masterpiece and gets a film rating of 9.5 out 10.

 

Live Without Regrets

jack_ryan_shadow_recruit_ver3

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin, Costner

Royal Shakespeare actor turned director Kenneth Branagh teams up with the darling of the reboot franchises, American actor Chris Pine last seen in JJ. Abrams’s Star Trek: Into Darkness to direct and star in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a prequel to such films as Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994) and The Sum of all Fears (2002). Grounding the action back in London where Ryan is studying at the London School of Economics and witnesses 9/11 on British TV, he is soon thrust into mortal combat in Afghanistan in 2003.

After suffering a spinal injury from his tour in Afghanistan, Ryan is back in the States at the Walter Reed Medical Centre where he meets Dr Cathy Muller, played by Keira Knightley, initially an odd casting choice but as the film progresses it is really the chemistry between Knightley and Branagh that sizzle on screen particularly in the witty dialogue in the Moscow restaurant scene discussing living without regrets, which eclipses any plausibility of her character pairing with Pine’s energetic American spy Ryan. Knightley for once has shed her period drama image after such turns in the beautiful yet flawed Anna Karenina and the brilliant Atonement who elevates Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit into a better movie even though her mid-Atlantic accent remains indistinguishable.

Branagh last seen in My Week With Marilyn and who also directed Thor, casts himself as cruel Russian oligarch Viktor Cheverin who has dodgy accounts hiding a range of funds waiting to destabilize the US economy from his swish uber-cool Moscow skyscraper activating a couple of sleeper Russian agents in the American Mid-West.

sorry_wrong_number_ver2The onscreen tension between Branagh, Pine and Knightley is hinted at earlier through clips of the 1948 thriller Sorry Wrong Number starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster which is about a woman who overhears a murder plot on the phone only to realize she is the intended victim.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is packed with some great action sequences both in Moscow and New York while the storyline is fairly formulaic and in no league to the 007 or Bourne Identity franchises, it is still an enjoyable slightly suave thriller, but entertaining nevertheless. Branagh is better at directing with more grandiose films like the original Thor film and naturally his earlier films with Emma Thompson were still the best including Dead Again and King Henry V.

Kevin Costner helps the film as veteran CIA agent Harper who plays mentor to the young spy. Chris Pine makes the best of his version of Ryan with his startling blue eyes, but lacks the grit and maturity that Harrison Ford brought to the character in the nineties films Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Shadow Recruit is recommended viewing for a watchable spy thriller which does not dazzle, but just manages to engage the audience’s attention especially with the combined acting calibre of Branagh and Knightley.

Clashing of Vanities

My Week with Marilyn

My Week with Marilyn directed by Simon Curtis is a charming film about the clashing of vanities in a more subtle and polite society following the filming of the musical comedy The Late Prince which would become 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl teaming up the great British Theatre personality Laurence Olivier and 1950’s American screen goddess Marilyn Monroe at Britain’s legendary Pinewood Studios.

Michelle Williams takes the part of Marilyn Monroe and might not be as voluptuous physically, but her brilliant performance of the doomed and fragile screen icon Monroe who was a legendary flirt and a consummate movie star is layered and superb. Kenneth Branagh is equally brilliant as the vain and pompous Laurence Olivier whose  divergence into cinema with the Prince and the Showgirl was beset with problems on the Pinewood studios set especially made more difficult by the pill-popping, temperamental and sultry Monroe.

The clash between Monroe and Olivier went far deeper than vanity or fame, it was also a conflict of their two vastly different styles of acting. Monroe was trained in the Lee Strasberg school of method acting  popular in Hollywood, California originally pioneered by Constantin Stanislavski and refers to the method of actors drawing on their own personal emotions and memories in their onscreen portrayals.  Olivier was a London Shakespearian theatre actor and was quite unused to the medium of film.

Monroe felt and acted in the moment which worked brilliantly on the short takes of cinema, whilst Olivier was trained in the more established tradition of  Classical Theatre where thespians  rehearsed and performed a repertoire of theatre from Greek tragedy to plays by Sheridan, Shakespeare, Chekov and Noel Coward and prepared for their roles by learning their lines down to the last iambic pentameter and essentially being on time and in full costume. Their vastly different styles of acting is exemplified in the original 1957 film, The Prince and the Showgirl.

My week with Marilyn is told through the eyes of a 3rd Assistant Director Colin Clark played with surprising vigour by rising British Star Eddie Redmayne who is smitten by the tantalizing Marilyn Monroe and has a wonderful supporting cast including Zoe Wanamaker as Paula Strasberg, Dominic Cooper as Hollywood agent Milton Greene along with Julia Ormond as Laurence Olivier’s wife Vivien Leigh and Dougray Scott as playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn’s husband at the time of shooting Prince and the Showgirl. Watch out for a great cameo by Dame Judi Dench playing the great Shakespearean actress Dame Sybil Thorndike. Where My Week with Marilyn excels is how beautifully it illustrates how divergent British and American cultures were especially in the 1950’s and how the clashing of vanities between the screen siren Monroe and the theatrical Olivier underlined both these stars own vulnerabilities and their strengthens.

Casting of Williams and Branagh as legendary stars Monroe and Olivier was critical in making My Week with Marilyn a lovely and substantial film about the making of film itself and the insecurities and drama that goes on between a Screen siren who knew how to titillate the public especially men and an aging theatre actor desperate to make his cinematic debut.  Both Williams and Branagh deserved earned Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor but lost out to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady and Christopher Plummer for Beginners at the 2012 84th Academy Awards.

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