The success of ‘Knives Out’ and ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ led to a resurgence of the relentless murder mystery
By Guy Lodge / The Guardian
Surprise isn’t much of a factor in Death on the Nile, Kenneth Branagh’s flashy and brilliant second adaptation of an Agatha Christie chestnut. As with its predecessor, 2017 is slightly worse
Murder on the Orient Express, this old-school mystery pulls from a source text so well-known that its twists have practically become built-in genre tropes; even if you don’t know the oft-told story, you can guess your way through the cliches and character types alone.
Adorned with chintzy CGI, stiff performances, and enough melted cheese to fill the Nile, it’s not exactly a good movie – even “competent” sounds like a stretch – but it’s oddly heartwarming. Watching Hercule Poirot with the absurd Branagh mustache waddle in the motions of a self-styled crime-solving expert – as bloodied, satin-clad corpses pile up around him – offers satisfaction equivalent to that of re-enacting a puzzle on a rainy Sunday: you know what the outcome is going to be, but there’s something soothing about putting it all together. If this is a murder mystery you don’t already know, great, but the process-based pleasures of the genre are consistent both ways. A good thriller, or even a pretty bad one, is the fictional equivalent of Marie Kondo organizing your sock drawer.
Photo: 20th Century Studios via AP
Obviously, I’m not the only one feeling this, because a century after Hercule Poirot first appeared in print, good old-fashioned whodunit has suddenly become hot property again. Branagh wasn’t the only great filmmaker to bring it back into popular culture.
None of his Christie films can claim the hip motto of Rian Johnson’s nifty 2019 potboiler Knives Out, which mixed Christie’s homage with a snap – a rambling house full of eccentric murder suspects, an eccentrically accented detective to figure it all out – with decidedly less retro class politics straight out of Donald Trump’s America.
The cocktail worked out more successfully than even Johnson had surely imagined.
Photo: 20th Century Studios via AP
After grossing more than $300 million worldwide and earning it an Oscar nomination, the film was not just approved for a sequel, but an entire megabuck franchise: Netflix paid a colossal $469 million. dollars to secure Detective Benoit Blanc’s next two adventures, plunging the unlikely Daniel Craig, newly escaped from his stint as 007, back at the helm of the franchise. Pitting Craig’s Neo-Poirot against a new batch of high-profile subjects including Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn and Ethan Hawke, Knives Out 2 (a smarter title is arguably TBC) wrapped filming in Greece last summer. and will be released later this year, with its plot (understandably) kept strictly secret. Whether it matches the popular impact of its predecessor remains to be seen, but Netflix is counting on the accessibility of its release model to keep the series hot.
It’s not the streaming giant’s only sequel of the year, either. The credits titled Murder Mystery may not have impressed moviegoers much in 2019, but like so many throwaway comedies made under Adam Sandler’s ongoing Netflix deal, it was a stealth phenomenon with subscribers, and remains one of the most-watched original streamers. Nearly Three Years Later, I Couldn’t Tell You What Happens There – Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Killer Hijinks
on a luxury yacht – but Murder Mystery 2 is inevitably in production all the same, Lidl’s complement to Johnson’s Waitrose cuddles. Expect the two franchises to run side by side for some time.
See How They Run, a feature debut from British TV director Tom George, is a bit more appealing. , a case involving several murders in the London theatrical scene. You can practically hear the warm creak of the floorboards; the classy supporting cast includes Ruth Wilson, David Oyelowo and Harris Dickinson. (Well, that doesn’t make sense in the gallery of faces of a thug you don’t recognize.)
Meanwhile, much like Lego Movie co-creator Chris Miller’s murder-mystery comedy series, The Afterparty takes off on Apple TV – starring Tiffany Haddish as a detective investigating a murder at a high school reunion – the 2022 release slate also features Reunion, a low-key film with an identical-sounding premise and a cast that includes Lil Rel Howery and Billy Magnussen. It’s suspected The Afterparty will eclipse it in the publicity stakes, though Miller’s series has yet to match the noise generated by TV’s biggest new crime hit: sparked by the unlikely combination of
Selena Gomez with Steve Martin and Martin Short, Only Murders in the Building has built up enough devoted word of mouth after last year to be renewed for a second series.
Co-created by Martin himself, playful ark Only Murders in the Building boasts a postmodern premise that alone may partly explain the genre’s great resurgence. Abandoning a detective figure, the film instead focuses on three neighbors in an Upper West Side apartment building who attempt to unravel a suspicious death in the apartment building on their own, driven by their own shared fascination with podcasts about the true crime.
The rise of true-crime storytelling over the past decade — whether in podcast form or Netflix docuseries — seems an obvious clue to fiction’s reappropriation of procedural mystery.
Such true-crime works can often be masked by solemn journalistic trappings and an air of social significance, but they often appeal to their audiences on the same basis as any Agatha Christie pot – appealing to our collective fascination. sinister for human evil and our rationality. want to reconstruct a way to explain or correct all this. At a time when public confidence in official law and order is at an understandable level, it is perhaps unsurprising that escape stories allowing the public to solve crime on their own are so popular. new in fashion.
That private detectives like Poirot and Benoit Blanc wield authority without being cops seems key to their renewed appeal, though they are also mere proxies for the viewer’s mental search.
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