Murder on the Orient Express Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
The big reveal relies on having no knowledge of the outcome
My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the worldMurder on the Orient Express, the 1934 novel, has been the subject of many interpretations and the latest is directed by and stars Kenneth Branagh along with a whole host of famous faces, many of whom have acted with or been directed by Branagh in the past, pool their respective talents to bring us a literal star studded ensemble that might be considered to be the definitive version of this classic. It has a lot to love up to, of course, and, for the most part, it maintains its drive, despite the huge cast and, somewhat old fashioned story telling devices (a product of the source, not the filming technique). The story of a famous detective being presented with a murder on a train and everyone a potential suspect is ripe for investigation and Branagh does not steer too far from the course.Opening with the fastidiousness of Hercule Poirot we are treated to the first of what will become a glorious looking picture; shot in 65mm film the image is lavish, and really this is what sets this film apart – it simply looks amazing. Each of the characters are given their introduction, a lengthy process considering the amount and each have the moment to shine in the spotlight when quizzed after the murder. Attention to detail is first rate, and the addition of the ‘action scenes’, probably to appease the modern audience, does get the film off to a sprint. Indeed the movie zips along at a decent enough pace, and due to this initial speed does flag slightly in the middle as the suspects are lining up. But the big reveal is tastefully done but, obviously, does rely on having no knowledge of the outcome.
Picture QualityMurder on the Orient Express was shot using various 65mm film cameras and has been scanned and finished with a 4K Digital Intermediate. It is this 4K DI that has been used here for this Ultra HD Blu-ray. The film is presented with a native 3840 x 2160p resolution and in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the disc uses 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec for HRD10.
Possibly the best looking 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray yet
Oh my. Let’s say sumptuous. With that source there is very little to go wrong with the image; detail is out of this world, from close up skin textures and clothing weaves, to wood grain, carpets, or dining implements; check out the dusty streets in Jerusalem, or the crust on the bread in the bakery. There really is so much to enjoy. Add to this a wonderful HDR pass and you have grades of colour that are simply missing from the Blu-ray; all the primaries benefit with the overview vistas being the most polished, whether that is a cityscape or mountainous terrain. The range between dark and light is immense, with plenty going on in the dark corners of the train (aside from one scene that seemed to grey out a tad (MacQueen ‘confessing’ in his compartment) while the high end never suffers any issues. The source is pristine, with a light natural grain giving a beautiful filmic quality to the piece. The upturn in resolution and colouring does mean that some of the green screen effects (and makeup) look a wee bit artificial. But if you can forgive that, I don’t think you will see a better image on the new format.
Sound QualityThe Dolby Atmos soundtrack is another stonker; not in terms of bombast, but in terms of the realistic surround environment that places you in the centre of the frame. Take, for example, being within the carriage as the train moves, or being in the crowd next to the Wailing Wall, or shovelling coal into the steam engine furnace – each environment is perfectly reproduced to place the audience in that scene, it is quite remarkable. Dialogue is clear and precise, sounds very natural and dominated by the frontal array. Subtle ambient effects such as a bell ringing overhead while a child runs through a street really open up the surround field. More ‘action’ orientated scenes, such as the train rattling along, or the avalanche crashing down the mountain are given full range and impact. Bass is deep and strong, though seldom used; the track is more about the mix or realism than shocking the audience with effects, and on this level it is a triumph.
Audio Commentary – With director/star Kenneth Branagh and screen writer Michael Greene, is a pretty sober affair that covers all the usual bases with regard to production, filming and titbits.
Audio Commentary – Same as above.
Agatha Christie: An Intimate Portrait – Twenty minute featurette discussing aspects of Christie’s life, includes interviews with grandson and great-grandson as well as audio recordings of the author herself.
Let's Talk About Hercule Poirot – Brief 10 minute featurette that continues the audio of Christie discussing the character and his attributes.
Unusual Suspects: Part One/Two/Three – Very brief 5 minute featurettes on the rest of the characters on the train.
The Art of Murder – A far more standard ‘making of’ 16 minute featurette that covers various aspects of the film making process, benefits from some behind the scene footage, but is very light and fluffy.
All Aboard: Filming Murder on the Orient Express – Continuing the same trend, and run time, with similar footage and interviews, this time centric on the filming process.
Music of Murder – A 7 minute piece on composer Patrick Doyle and how he tied to distance himself from the 1974 Academy Award nominated version.
Deleted Scenes – Runs for 16 minutes and can be watched with optional commentary from Branagh and Greene.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictMurder on the Orient Express is the latest interpretation of this classic whodunit from Agatha Christie, this time headed up by Kenneth Branagh and a whole host of his mates, in what is a who’s who of British acting talent. Indeed the whole film has a sumptuous feel to it with lavish sets, glorious cinematography and each character given time to shine. Whilst this is an enjoyable watch, the outcome relies solely on not knowing the culprit and that fact alone may limit its shelf life.
A who’s who of British acting talent
As a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray package, the set from 20th Century Fox is pretty decent; the picture is pure elegance and a pinnacle for the format, hailing from a 65mm film print and a 4K DI. There are simply not enough adjectives to describe how gorgeous the image is in terms of absolute detail, colouring and dynamic range. Similarly the Dolby Atmos track is a triumph of naturalistic surround environment, relying on superlative placement of the effects to give a truly layered experience. The extras package, by contrast, does seem a wee bit light, but what there is covers most of the bases.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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