Murder On The Orient Express
Jack Bottomley, Media Correspondent
When it comes to sleuths, there are names that continue to live on across numerous mediums, from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and one of the names that belong in such company is arguably Christie’s most successful literary creation Hercule Poirot.
Perhaps the best-known incarnation is David Suchet’s beloved portrayal of the detective on Television for 24 years in ITV’s series Agatha Christie’s Poirot.
However other huge names have taken on the role in the past, most notably Peter Ustinov and Albert Finney.
Now, comes another take on Christie’s legendary moustachioed mystery solver in Kenneth Branagh’s all star adaptation of one of the most famous Poirot whodunits in Christie’s 1934 novel Murder On The Orient Express.
So is the journey worth the price of admission?
The film sees Poirot (Branagh) gain access on-board the express - via an old accomplice – and look to relax after some particularly testing cases. But a detective’s work is never done and when an avalanche causes the journey to take a sudden stop, one of the passengers is found stabbed to death and Poirot is tasked with solving this seemingly impossible crime and uncovering the murderer among these passengers.
Should you know the story, the actual twist and details will be familiar but Branagh’s elegant and fun take on Christie’s tale is a real crowdpleaser all the same. His direction is aesthetically inclined and really captures the story’s lavishness and the setting’s tight, confined, effectiveness.
Shot on 65mm cameras, the film looks stunning and some might say it is a case of style over substance, but what style!
Mind you, it is not all flash, as this is an old school mystery yarn that rewards viewers with an enjoyable night at the pictures in more ways than merely visual.
Michael Green’s screenplay remains loyal to Christie’s tale but takes the time to update it where necessary (especially regarding the issues of race and some action sequences) and it – much like this year’s Beauty and the Beast – results in a film that is a fine take on the story, which at once feels classic in structure but fresh enough to work for a modern audience. It also helps that Branagh has an eye-openingly huge ensemble cast to work with.
A Litany of Lovies?
The film really feels like a vintage performance piece with some major names taking on big and small parts alike but all of them giving the parts – no matter how much/little depth – real regal gusto.
True some have little to do onscreen (Judi Dench’s Princess Dragomiroff, Johnny Depp’s Samuel Ratchett and Penelope Cruz’s Pilar Estravadoz) but they all have a place in this carriage of murder, lies and ties and come the genuinely well delivered poignant climax, the cast have really worked hard together to add emotional weight to the story and helped hide some of its realistically far-fetched ideas.
Michelle Pfeiffer is given her best role in some time as Caroline Hubbard, while Daisy Ridley works well as Mary Debenham and Leslie Odom Jr. has an effective turn as Dr. Arbuthnot.
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I’ll admit, I had my doubts about Branagh as Poirot, and his ginormous upper lip hair (which initially may draw a giggle). Yet, through a screenplay that knows when to laugh at and side with its obsessive lead’s quirks, and thanks to Branagh’s utterly gripping performance, his Poirot is an absolute triumph!
His wit and intellect remind me of Robert Downey Jr.’s recent take on Holmes and his meticulous nature makes his look and manners all feel natural and Branagh brings his A-game to the part in a way I never expected. He is absolutely marvellous.
The story has its flaws and some may see it as a very overdressed film but Murder On The Orient Express is a rollickingly enjoyable 65mm shot whodunnit, with the A-List cast stabbing their spoons into this cinematic soufflé enthusiastically, as Branagh makes a terrific Poirot.
A hugely stylised but good fun old school period Drama/Thriller.
Murder On The Orient Express (12A)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Willem Defoe, Johnny Depp, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley, Derek Jacobi, Olivia Colman
Release Date: Out Now
Murder On The Orient Express, 14th November 2017, 11:22 AM