Binge Watch: Kenneth Branagh

Last year saw Branagh release his best film but next Friday will see him release one that has been oft delayed. Death on the Nile was originally set for 2020. Now, it appears to finally be on the cusp of its release just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend. As we get ready for its debut, this week’s Binge Watch focuses on five other films directed by Branagh. While he’s been known for some of his adaptations of Shakespeare, including Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing, this will focus on some of his other commercial features from the past 20 years.

Thor (2011)
: That’s right, Branagh was one of the first directors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is a beautiful look and epic scope to the first Thor film, and a sense of theatricality that other installments don’t have. Is it the best film? No, but it is better than it sometimes gets credit for being. It’s possible the Branagh style wasn’t a good fit for the MCU, but he helped get the franchise going.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
: Here’s another franchise film, this time Branagh was the last to make an entry. After a few successful Jack Ryan films with Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford in the 1990s, and a re-boot with Ben Affleck in 2005, the franchise got another jumpstart. This one included a cast led by Chris Pine as the titular Ryan and supporting roles from Kevin Costner and Keira Knightly. It’s OK and works decently but it might be the least memorable of the five big screen Jack Ryan films.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Cinderella (2015)
Yet another franchise film, this one a live-action adaptation of a Disney fairytale. The film features Lily James as Cinderella, James Madden as her prince and Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother. They dropped the musical element from the animated film but made a solid movie that was one of the first of a wave of live action re-makes. This felt like it was right in Branagh’s wheelhouse.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Branagh not only directed this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel, but he also takes the lead role as the great detective Hercule Poirot. This had a stellar cast and a great trailer, so I was excited to see it. The final product was good but not great. I did enjoy some of the visuals and the way it was put together, enough so that I’m excited to dive back in with Death on the Nile.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Belfast (2021)
Last year Branagh delivered perhaps his most personal film. It’s also undeniably his best film. If you follow this space, you know that it was my No. 3 film for 2021 and I suspect it’s going to continue to be a player throughout awards season. Even if Death on the Nile isn’t your cup of tea, make sure you see Belfast!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.

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