A strange blog post title – what’s going on? Best answer these questions, PlaidCamper.
I thought I’d write this a few months early, as winter appears to have come and gone, and Calgary is gripped by an early spring. Temperatures hitting 12C (!) the next couple of days, and last time I checked the 14 day forecast, the seasonal daytime high of 0C won’t be happening until late December. If this keeps up, expect a photograph of a daffodil next week…
Calgary has spring, and I’ve had man flu – very disappointing to have a winter affliction when it isn’t even winter outside. Doesn’t seem fair. Luckily, I’d never complain about the weather, and likewise, I’d never complain about feeling under the weather. Nope, I may be gripped by man flu, or worse, but you won’t hear a peep. Perhaps a sniff, sneeze, cough, and a small whimper, but that’s about all.
Having been confined to my sick bed (or sofa), I thought I’d recommend a couple of movies where winter does make an appearance. It’s the only snow we’ve seen for a while.
Let’s start with Wind River (dir. Taylor Sheridan, VVS 2017), one of the few decent movies for grown ups (they let me in) released since the summer, worth your time if you enjoy a slow burn story, arresting scenery, and great performances. Sheridan wrote this, and he wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water, also good movies. If you’ve seen the others, you’ll know Sheridan enjoys a stand off. The characters he creates aren’t always the most immediately accessible or likeable, but you’ll care about them when the stand off occurs.
In Wind River, we start with death on a reservation, followed by death in the past, then more death on a reservation, and finishing up with a bit more death high above a Wyoming reservation. It isn’t the most cheerful of movies, although there are glimmers of hope in the troubled lives of key characters. The story touches on family grief, notions of justice, wasted lives, greed over resource extraction, racial tension, friendship and duplicity. Fortunately, there is also a sprinkling of deadpan humour. And lots and lots of snow. All this in less than two hours, and it is a taut little mystery.
Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner are convincing in their roles, Renner as a hunter, Olsen as a rookie FBI agent. We can thank Sheridan as writer for avoiding what could have been a horribly cliched relationship between these two. The smaller roles are well cast and well acted, and the snowy mountain landscapes are beautiful. When the mystery of what happened to the original victim is revealed in a long flashback, it adds to the drama of what happens next. Great storytelling.
If all the gloomy death and despair of Wind River isn’t for you, then let me recommend a different movie. Be warned, it also features death, but there is far more fun to be had in Murder on the Orient Express (dir. Kenneth Branagh, 20th Century Fox 2017), if you are ok with watching a retelling of a story told countless times before.
I wasn’t too sure about seeing this one. I’d seen a trailer, and it was a touch off-putting. That moustache! The hammy-sounding Brit accents (I have one of those) and ‘eavy Belgian prrro-nun-cee-ation. Hmm – cliche and scenery-chewing alert!
Well, it was a blast! It’s hard to complain about a wonderfully familiar cast of good actors clearly enjoying themselves. Branagh is confident marshalling his players, giving each just enough space to shine.
The train is rolling through striking mountain scenery when a disaster strikes! It is stuck on a huge trestle bridge suspended over a deep, deep gorge after an avalanche blocks the track, derailing the steam engine. There is lots and lots of snow. There is a murder! Poirot has to solve the case before the avalanche is cleared, the engine restored, and the train is able to continue.
In what is essentially a one set movie after the murder occurs, the delights are in the encounters Branagh’s Poirot has with character after character. The movie isn’t derailed and the story doesn’t run out of steam, even if you know what happens. Branagh himself gives a distinctive performance as Poirot, humanizing him behind the huge whiskers and sharp detective intellect.
This movie is good to look at! As well as the colourful period costumes, the train’s interiors are glorious, all cut glass, wooden sheen, crisp tablecloths and gleaming silverware. This is a throwback movie, old-fashioned yet revelling in subverting an age that wasn’t as golden or glamorous as it appears. A fun film, if a story about murder is allowed to be fun.
There you have it, a couple of deeply different movies to enjoy on a dark winter (fake spring?) evening if you are feeling sorry for yourself with a bit of a cold. Thank goodness I was able to get a winter fix, even if it took a murder or two and some CGI…
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!