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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a poem featuring repetition, so I took inspiration from a form called the pantoum, wherein the second and fourth lines are reused as the first and third in the following stanza. I don’t think I’ve written one before, so it was fun trying it out.)

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There’s death at our feet now and guilt in the air.
We wince at the wrong the once righteous have done.
The taking of life is a fearful affair,
Not easily halted once it has begun.

We wince at the wrong the once righteous have done,
But justice is fast on the heels of the crime,
Not easily halted once it has begun
And knowing that truth is a matter of time.

Yes, justice is fast on the heels of the crime
And eager that evil be dragged from its lair.
We know that the truth is a matter of time.
There’s death at our feet now and guilt in the air.

MPAA rating:  PG-13

My VC has recently become enamored of all things murder mystery. She’s gobbled up mystery novels by the series, and is currently making her way through innocuous but likable Hallmark mysteries. So of course, we had to check out one of the most famous mysteries of them all, Mystery on the Orient Express, specifically Kenneth Branagh’s rendition of the acclaimed Agatha Christie novel.

I’ll admit up front that I did actually know whodunit (it’s a famous story, after all), but my VC didn’t. And even though I knew the ultimate answer to the mystery, I couldn’t recall all the details and motivations. This is also the only film version I’ve seen, and it delivered its eloquent twists admirably, with a stunningly crafted setting against a snowy mountainside.

Branagh is an excellent Hercule Poirot, even if his handlebar mustache and OCD tendencies are a bit over the top, and he’s joined by a laudable collection of worthy actors/suspects, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Lucy Boynton, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr. (of Hamilton fame), and Johnny Depp as the disreputable victim discovered murdered on the fateful 1930s train ride. I was also amused at the “coincidental” casting of Judi Dench alongside Olivia Colman, both of whom have Oscars for playing British queens, with Colman’s obviously coming after this movie.

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Beyond the who’s who of talent, the film is also sumptuously shot, merging the feel of a classic with the polished cinematography and inventive camerawork of a modern auteur. Its ultimate resolution doesn’t really lend itself to a satisfying end (at least my VC thought not), but it’s true to what I recall about the original story, with its final open-ended theme meant to leave the audience pondering right and wrong. While it’s not the Oscar contender I thought it might be before its release (though still much better than its 59% Rotten Tomatoes score indicates), Mystery on the Orient Express is well-mounted and well-acted enough to please most fans of a good murder mystery. I’m looking forward to its sequel based on Death on the Nile, which incidentally I know nothing about and plan to keep it that way until 2020.

Best line: (Poirot) “I am of an age where I know what I like and what I do not like. What I like, I enjoy enormously. What I dislike, I cannot abide.”


Rank:  List Runner-Up


© 2019 S.G. Liput
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