July 2011: Death, Deceit and Destiny Aboard the Orient Express
Sometimes when you support an actor or actress, you have to sit through some poor films, some terrible films. For Andrew Divoff, I suffered Faust: Love of the Damned. For Costas Mandylor, I endured Dr. Chopper. For Christoph Waltz, I sat through Death, Deceit and Destiny Aboard The Orient Express. The good thing about awful films, though, is that while they are of substandard quality in every conceivable aspect, they often have a lot of entertainment value. Some become cult films and get a following. At the very least you can get a laugh out of them. Unfortunately Orient Express isn’t quite terrible enough to be hilarious but it has a few laughable moments.
A terrorist decides called a fake meeting to bring many business tycoons and investors together on the Orient Express posing as a fellow tycoon. Among that number is a Hollywood actor. Now you’ve probably have a rough idea of what the plot is. That’s it. Terrorist gets on train, reveals self and motives, blackmail, actor doesn’t take kindly to it, attempts to stop his plan. It’s essentially every single Hollywood action film featuring terrorists on a shoestring budget set on a train. Even the terrorist’s causes are suitably vague. Nothing individual to set this apart from any other. But as we’ve established this as a terrible film, we shouldn’t be surprised at its lack of individuality. The acting is poor and two-dimensional. Nobody does or says anything you wouldn’t expect.
It also throws up some extremely odd moments especially when it comes to Waltz’s character. For some reason, Christoph Waltz, a Caucasian Austrian, has been cast as an Arabic terrorist. No attempt has been made to hide his nationality nor his accent. We’re just meant to see him and accept him as Arabic. This made no sense to me whatsoever. So there were no Arabic actors who could play the role instead? Couldn’t the character’s nationality be changed to suit the actor? Apparently not. In another moment of oddness, the terrorist gets onto the train with his henchmen, wearing a disguise. Well, that makes sense. If anyone recognized him as he was getting on, his plan might have been foiled. But you haven’t seen the disguise. It’s frankly bizarre and certainly would attract more attention. It’s like a nightmarish caricature of his own face, disturbingly exaggerated. Call me crazy but surely that’s going to attract more attention. Later the leading lady is deemed ‘smart’ for realising that the man in the mask was the terrorist. Give the girl a biscuit. Now a disguise we can ignore if he’s got the firepower to back his scheme up. That’s a no in that department as well though. Even though he plans to blow up the entire train if his demands aren’t meant, in what could laughably be called the film’s climax, it could barely blow up the driver’s compartment.
In a frankly amazing feat of professionalism, Waltz isn’t too bad in this. Yes, the script is atrocious but he nearly makes you forget you’re watching a terrible film. He does the best he can with what he’s given at least. But I think it’s safe to say that Waltz probably won’t count this amongst his best performances.
The plus side is for non-German speaking fans, it’s in English. It’s not even remotely taxing and if you’re willing to accept that, yes, this film is pretty bad, then you can almost enjoy it. Almost.
(Note from Sacher: I hesitated to put a review of this film up under the guise of a “Film of the Month” as it’s not something I would feature prominently, but as I realized, I did cover Catherine the Great in which Christoph had what could best be described as a ‘bit part’. While he is in this film a fair bit, he is without a doubt the only reason to watch this – and, even then, despite it being in English, it’s best left to the die-hard fans. To put it in context: there are only 2 films that I’ve seen of Christoph’s that make me cringe in Fremdschämen . This is one of them By NO means should any conclusions or impressions of Mr. Waltz’s talents or abilities come from a viewing of this film.)