Hollywood owes a lot to the UK, namely a hell of a lot of back taxes but also a large part of its culture and narrative drive and this is partly down to their last Chancellor of The Exchequer basically saying Hollywood films only have to pay a fraction of tax every other company has to. This is why so many movies in recent years have been made in Britain and why British stars are flooding our screens as UK union law means that a certain amount of British people have to be employed on each production. So when you get sick to death of seeing Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy prancing about on the big screen, blame a guy called George Osborne, he's not very popular in the UK anyway so many of them won't hold it against you.
But the British influence has always been there in Hollywood with many writers, actors and producers crossing the pond to make it big in America and as such Hollywood has seen the UK market as an influential and important one to its roster despite being pretty small compared to other global audience sources. However, there is one soon to be released blockbuster packed to the nines with British talent, directed by a British icon and adapted from a famous British novel that is so utterly determined to impress on home shores and yet is almost entirely destined to fail.
Murder On The Orient Express is a classic murder mystery novel by the noted crime writer Agatha Christie. An institution in Britain, Christie's impact on the crime genre there can be seen throughout literature, film, and television with her two most enduring character creations of Hercules Poirot and Miss Marple both living on in serialized television shows that aired for many, many years. They became a staple of the British viewing habits and reintroduced the characters to younger audiences time and time again. Murder On the Orient Express is a story that involves the former creation, a middle-aged Belgian sleuth who often beat the police to punch and had a cocksure, arrogant swagger about his certainty to unravel each mystery should he be given the appropriate amount of time.
The diminutive detective has been woven into the very fabric of British culture over time that pretty much all of his written adventures have been used on screen or the airwaves more than once and have attracted an eclectic array of British talent to give life to his stories and so it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling to see if they could emulate this success on a larger scale. In fact, they have done so before with the 1974 film Murder On The Orient Express that pulled in so many of Hollywood's big names, it's a surprise any other films were made during that period as pretty much every big-name actor was working on it, including a wealth of the best British talent such as Albert Finney, Jacqueline Bisset, Sean Connery and John Gielgud to appeal to its home nation audience. It worked a treat and won Finney the Oscar for Best Lead Actor as well as Ingrid Bergman the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress alongside four other Academy Awards and presumably it is this that the new remake is hoping to ape as well as, we suppose, trying to make lots and lots of money.
This time around, British acting legend Kenneth Branagh (#notmypoirot) has taken on directing duties as well as becoming the man behind the mustache that is Hercules Poirot, and his version of the picture is also packed to the rafters with stars such as Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Penelope Cruz, and again including British superstars to gather in the home crowd like Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Olivia Coleman, Derek Jacobi and Branagh himself. This particular Poirot story has seen so many iterations since its first publication that it is a wonder that anyone in the country still doesn't know who the killer is but people in GB have lapped it up time and time again and yet I can almost assuredly say, this time it will determinedly come off the rails.
For one thing, the whole project reeks of Hollywood overexerting itself to try and sell it with shiny visuals, special effects and A-listers galore all filling the trailer out to the gills as it pants furiously along trying to create a sort of breathlessly tense atmosphere whilst Branagh flounces about not quite sure if he should chew the scenery or play it as straight as possible. Brits, notoriously do not take too kindly to American's trying to rebrand something they consider their own and they can get quite snobbish about it when it comes to how they feel such projects should be presented but this time around it may be too shiny and too slick for the native islanders to handle.
To truly understand how this glossy picture may turn the United Kingdom off, we have to go back all the way to 1989 when the television show Agatha Christie's Poirot was first on television. As previously mentioned, the P.I had been featured an inordinate amount of times in the media before with famed and highly lauded Russian-English thespian Peter Ustinov most notably portraying him up until this point so how a cheap weeknight version was going to fare in the hearts and minds did not look good. Cue, David Suchet.
Comical handlebar mustache starched to unmoving perfection and the hammiest of French-Belgian accents affected, Suchet strode about in the shoes of Hercules Poirot with the pomposity of an emperor as he made the role his own for an incredible 23 years! Yes, the show ran from 1989 until 2002 over 13 series as he swaggered about pretty much every British stately home in the country trying to solve who had bumped off the well-to-do of the nation time and time again and is still broadcast on an almost permanent repeat. This image of Poirot became so ingrained in the British psyche that, ask any local to the islands to describe Agatha Christie's ingenious European and they will most likely recite back to you the precise image of Suchet's slicked down combover covered by bowler hat and carefully created paunch and gait. The show also bumbled along at a relatively casual pace with a sort of lackadaisical approach that suited its latter Sunday evening time slot as people finished off their roast dinner's and settled in to see who would be undone by the calculations of the portly private eye, so at odds with how this new blockbuster is trying to sell itself as a tense thriller. Anyone foolish enough to attempt to puncture visage in the Briton's mind's eye would be engaging in some dangerous folly.
So it is perhaps for that reason that the bizarre thinking behind Branagh taking the helm of the project is evident. He is British himself, he should know darn well there is no other Poirot to the current generation of British television watchers and is he so arrogant to think his performance will be so good as to erase that? If so, perhaps he is perfectly suited to play Poirot but it is also, more than likely that Brits will just scoff at the idea of another Poirot and not be drawn out to see this imposter.
For those who might be intrigued as to how Branagh will approach the task, you can watch the trailer here.