Movie Article

'Murder' by Numbers

What film had the greatest big-name ensemble ever? Check out the latest Ask the Critic questions and post your own

Murder on the Orient Express | 'EXPRESS' TRAIN All right, which one of you stole my MetroCard?
Image credit: Murder On The Orient Express: Everett Collection
'EXPRESS' TRAIN All right, which one of you stole my MetroCard?

What film had the greatest big-name ensemble ever?

What film gathered the greatest big-name ensemble cast of all time? — Lucas
It's not the accumulated weight of celebrity that counts; rather, it's the gracefulness with which all those bold-face names pull together in the service of character and story that distinguishes the good (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, anyone?) from the gaudy (Ocean's Twelve, every-one?). The gang in Robert Altman's Nashville got it right in 1975; the gang in Altman's Gosford Park got it wrong 26 years later, succumbing to the ego affliction of self-congratulation. Anyhow, to answer your question, I'll go with Sidney Lumet's juicy 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express as best in show — an A-list party where Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, John Gleigud, and Vanessa Redgrave play so very well with others.

What musical score is grander than the movie itself? — Jason
I like The Moderns well enough — Alan Rudolph's 1988 cubist reverie follows expat Americans as they slouch around 1920s Paris, with Keith Carradine as a master art forger and Linda Florentino as a babe. But I adore Mark Isham's score, an aural collage of mood and texture as evocative as a Cartler-Bresson photo of café regulars. (Crank it up on a wintry Sunday late afternoon and transport yourself to the Left Bank.) In fact, I probably play the soundtrack CD more than any other in my collection. . .except for John Barry's luscious score for Out of Africa. (And, of course, the unbeatable compilation soundtrack for the undervalued Nixonlan comedy Dick — but that's the answer to a different music-in-movies question.)

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Originally posted Feb 28, 2005 Published in issue #809 Mar 04, 2005 Order article reprints