11 February 2022.
German/American director Roland Emmerich is a master of hyperbolic action films like “Independence Day”, “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Midway”. They were intelligent blockbusters – exciting, popular, a mixture of incredible thrills and basic human emotions. And mega-moneymakers.
Where has he gone wrong with this one? The script is incredibly foolish and unbelievable (a sorry replica of the disaster plot from “Don’t Look Up”, with this time the moon hurtling towards the earth), and the actors – Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson – look tired, unconvinced and as though they want to be somewhere else. The catastrophes just keep getting more excessive and ridiculous until you want to walk out.
There’s not much more to say, except don’t waste your time and money. Can’t win ‘em all…
DEATH ON THE NILE **1/2
Kenneth Branagh loves a spectacle, whether it be his grandiose Hamlet by Shakespeare or this new Agatha Christie mystery. He starts the film with a tense, black & white reproduction of the trenches in WWI. It’s to illustrate the early beginnings of Hercules Poirot’s genius, and the reason for his moustache. Then he turns the screen to a dark, rollicking nightclub with sensual singers and dancers, concentrating on a very amorous couple. There’s a lot going on as far as emotions are concerned.
We are then switched to blazing colors bathed in the Egyptian sun, with its pyramids and the eternal Nile. It’s all over-staged, over-embellished but quite fun. And so the adventure begins for the wealthy, newly-wed couple (Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer) who have taken over a luxurious boat on the Nile for their honeymoon with their international guests.
Branagh has reproduced the various famous venues on the Nile with a somewhat garish Las Vegas look, but no matter, the intrigues begin and the deaths start piling up.
We’ve seen this story before, done with Peter Ustinov as a more credible Poirot. As Branagh’s last Agatha Christie remake “Murder on the Orient Express” was a dud despite the incredible array of stars (Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruise, Judy Dench, etc…), this one is not so star-heavy, but more amusing. You’ll get your money’s worth in suspense.
But hold your breath for “Belfast”, Branagh’s multi-nominated, completely different, gentle masterpiece, coming out in early March.
MADELEINE COLLINS ** (vo French)
The beautiful, talented Virginie Efira (“Adieu les Cons”, “Benedetta”, “En attendant Bojangles”), who is everywhere these days, better watch out. This is the second film in a row in which she is playing a deranged, mad woman. The third, if you also take Benedetta as deranged. However well she does them all, she should be careful not be typecast as a serial looney.
In this film she is a woman split in two – between two households in France and Switzerland, one with a wealthy husband and her two sons, the other with a younger lover and his daughter whom she loves desperately. She manages to balance these disparate lives by acting as a constantly-travelling simultaneous interpreter. Somewhat Hitchcockian, partly soap opera kitsch, and at times incomprehensible, both the scenario and her life unravel out of control, for the duplicity becomes too much to handle. And it feels the same for the spectator.
If you think it was complicated till now, wait for the final outcome…
ENQUETE SUR UN SCANDALE D’ÉTAT **1/2 (vo French)
Here’s an austere French film about a real case concerning corruption within the top echelons of the anti-drug brigade and police force and their involvement in the drug trade. It stars Roschdy Zem as a mysterious informant, the always dour Vincent Lindon as the high-level suspect and Pio Marmai as the journalist for the Libération newspaper who got the scoop on the whole scandalous affair.
Director Thierry de Peretti keeps the film ultra-realistic though never quite pointing a finger at the main culprit, but rather concentrating on the fact-finding process, which tends to be frustratingly vague. The real back story, which came out between 2015-2017, concerned François Thierry, the Commissioner who was at that time the head of the French anti-drug brigade. That also was a murky, undefined investigative process, as is the film.
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Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.