Murder on the Orient Express Review
Kenneth Branagh takes on the lead role and director duties in his remake of Agatha Christie’s famous murder-mystery
A murder on the Orient Express and thirteen potential suspects - can Detective Hercule Poirot find the killer before they strike again?Agatha Christie’s detective novel Murder On The Orient Express was first published way back in 1934 and turned into an all-star film by director Sidney Lumet in 1974 with Albert Finney in the lead role. In 2001 it was adapted for television with David Suchet heading up the cast before arriving at this latest version. The year is 1934 and after solving a case in Jerusalem involving a priest, a rabbi and an Imam (yes, there is definitely a joke in there somewhere) the meticulous and double moustachioed Hercule Poirot has the chance to put his feet up… or so he hoped.However things don't go quite according to plan and upon boarding the opulent Orient Express the famous Belgian detective finds himself sharing the first class quarters with a plethora of interesting and colourful characters each one familiar with his mercurial sleuthing talents and every one eager to reach their destination on time. But after the discovery of a dead body combined with an avalanche, the passengers start to realise that their connections might just be leaving without them and that everyone on the train is a potential suspect in Poirot's investigation.
Playing the lead as Hercule Poirot as well as directing this murder mystery reboot is Kenneth Branagh who delivers a solid performance in both roles. Branagh offers up some quirky one-liners as the Belgium detective and much like his character pays close attention to detail when it comes to bringing this story to life. The film has a rich and decadent feel about it as the camera meanders through the warm confines of the train. This closeness is wonderfully juxtaposed against the snowy, wide open spaces that the train journeys through, shown in expansive wide shots, as plumes of smoke billow out into the cold air - almost like an image straight off of a postcard. Likewise, close attention is paid to the everyday running of the train and with the first class carriage, from the precise process of setting the tables to shovelling the coal into the engine, firmly situating us within the magnificent Orient Express and also worknig to mirror Poirot’s own scrupulous need for balance and perfection.
Branagh’s use of the space within the train works well to emphasise the close proximity of the characters and slowly builds the tension as fingers start to point. Over head shots are used to lay out the geography of the cabins and watch on as Poirot does his thing. Shooting on 65mm adds to the overall look of the film, which is undoubtedly beautiful and certainly wonderful in places. There are moments though, that do lack a certain amount of tension and about three quarters of the way through it does feel as though any momentum that has been steadily built has finally slowed to a gentle lull. But thankfully the final scene just about manages to pick up the pace and it’s full steam ahead.
Despite reaching a lull mid-way through, the film manages to chug along to the finish line
The star studded cast all perform well in their roles, it’s just a shame that each one only gets a brief moment to shine - but of course that is understandable given the number of characters. Michelle Pfeiffer gives yet another strong performance as Caroline Hubbard, an American in search of husband-we-don’t-know-what-number. Johnny Depp seems to have been typecast as American wheeler and dealer Edward Ratchett leaving his associates, Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad) and Edward Henry Masterman (Derek Jacobi) who seem to have a bit more to work with, to pick up the slack. As emotions run high and frustrations build the ensemble cast work well together each playing off the other, eager to mis-direct any possible signs of guilt.
For a whodunit Murder On The Orient Express ticks most of the boxes. We have interesting characters, a likeable detective on the case and a string of suspects. Everything you need for a good murder-mystery is here and despite losing its way in places the film does make its way to the finish line with even a hint of another murder to solve, this time on the Nile.
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