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My thoughts on Moonfall (2022), The Contractor (2022) and Death on the Nile (2022)

genre: action, adventure, science fiction

Ronald Emmerich is a master of making big and dramatic blockbuster films. High on adventure and spectacle and the same time giving you characters you want to root for through and through. So in a way, it makes sense that a film like Moonfall exists. However, while Moonfall could have easily reached the levels of Independence Day, 2012 and more recently Midway, it lacks that special something those film did have.

Don't get me wrong, if you ignore reality and go with the fantasy that is displayed on your screen, you will be entertained while the films lasts. Patrick Wilson and John Bradley portray very likeable characters. Halle Berry was adequate, but clearly was on automatic pilot. You do want them to achieve their goals. And while the stakes certainly are high, it never really feels like it does. For some reason, the dramatic impact is not really there. In a film where it is asked of you to suspend disbelief continuously, that is a real must.

Overall, Moonfall is a very predictable and forgettable film. Visually and spectacle wise, top-notch. But everything else that helps enhance the viewing experience is missing.

genre: action, thriller

The Contractor is one of those films that pretends to have substance, but is nothing but a low budget action film that takes far too long to get to the point.

It starts out as a social criticism regarding loyal soldiers and how they are being treated by the government when the job is done. Unfortunately, it doesn't go deep enough. It's clear that James Harper (played by Chris Pine) needs money to pay his debts and bills. Especially after he gets discharged due to a technicality. The only job available for him is to work as a contractor, hired gun, since it pays a lot and is something he is excellent at. There are many agencies who try to recruit him, but since he does have a conscious, he only wants to join one he can trust. Enter Mike (played by Ben Foster), his best friend. He himself is part of a contracting organization that is exactly what he is looking for.

You won't be surprised that this obviously isn't the case. I honestly had hope that this film at least would try to give a twist or two just to keep you guessing. But no, it can't be bothered. Ok, then what about the action? I think the action was decent. Although I had expected more and longer sequences. With the lack of real depth and impact, the action needs to be stellar and plentiful. 

The Contractor is not bad, but is not one I can recommend because it's quite generic and empty.

genre: crime, drama, mystery

Murder on the Orient Express did not wow me as I would have liked, but it showed potential. Branagh probably was aware of the criticism and made a much better Agatha Christie film this time around. 

Everything looks superb. I really dug the cinematography and style. It helped liven the events quite a lot. Let's face it, in these times you can't get away with an old school approach to film classical tales like has been done for so long. You do have to enhance the murder mystery in some way. Fortunately for me, it has been many years ago that I watched the Peter Ustinov, so I had forgotten about the mystery itself. That resulted into feeling and experience tension and suspense of an acceptable level. Still far removed from the older versions, but I don't think you can blame Branagh for that. There are only so many ways to tell the same story without changing vital parts too much. 

I also have to applaud Branagh for playing a more serious Poirot. He is fleshed out a little more and much less a caricature. He really had some great chemistry with Tom Bateman as Bouq. A lot more memorable and impactful than in the previous film. But to be fair, Poirot had some amusing interactions with other characters as well. Unfortunately, there are some minor flaws or issues that I have to mention. Gal Gadot. Why was she in this film? The way she makes her entrance is cringy as hell. It's too on the nose and far from enticing. But also how she reacts to Jacqueline de Bellefort. It never felt like she was truly frightened. BTW Emma Mackey who plays Jacqueline could and should have played Linnet Ridgeway. She is enchanting and scary. A real femme fatale. The other big flaw is the pacing. It really takes forever for the film to get going. If you truly got to know all the characters a little better, than perhaps it would not have been an issue.  Some scenes to take up precious space and feel like they have been put there to make things spicier. I am not entirely sure people would have danced like that in public. However, one could argue that these scenes do depict something important and to be honest, blatantly obvious if you think about it.

Overall, I had a good time watching this and if Kenneth Branagh keeps this upward trend, he has my blessing to make more of these.

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