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Review: Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express
11.07.2017
8 10

PLOT: Several strangers on board the Orient Express all become suspects after one passenger is murdered. It is up to the famed Inspector Hercule Poirot who must discover the devious culprit.

REVIEW: Kenneth Branagh’s big screen adaptation of Agatha Christie's classic tale MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS is something quite unusual in this day and age. Imagine a huge, star-studded cast, and a big story revolving around the murder of one of the passengers. And now keep in mind that this is based on the classic work of Agatha Christie. If you are looking for a CG enhanced final fight or a massive action climax, this is not that film. This is a dialogue heavy mystery that runs just under two hours. There are very few shoot outs or gun fights, and you will be hard pressed to find blockbuster style thrills in the midst of this very proper tale of murder and intrigue complete with gorgeous locales and engaging on-screen talent.

After solving a very problematic crime, the legendary Inspector Hercule Poirot (Branagh) is hoping to take a bit of a vacation. He of course has a change of plans when he decides to hop on board the Orient Express. As he meets his fellow passengers, the great Poirot discovers that murder is not far behind. After a fatal stabbing of one of the most notoriously despicable characters on the trip, the Inspector ends his vacation to try and find the killer. Yet discovering the who and the why will be tricky for Poirot, as it appears every single person taking the train has a secret or two, and not a one is capable of telling the truth.

kenneth branagh murder on the orient express daisy ridley judi dench johnny depp michelle pfeiffer agatha christie 2017

Mr. Branagh started his career giving new life to William Shakespeare courtesy of his impressive HENRY V in 1989 - he also took on MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, HAMLET and LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST. It makes sense that he adapt another classic writer with Christie. The filmmaker not only gets behind the camera for directorial duties, he also fully embraces the role of Hercules Poirot. His work here is slightly over-the-top, but it is certainly a sight to see. With his impressive mustache and his delightful accent, the actor perfectly captures the esteemed inspector. The actor brings equal amounts of heart and humor to the role.

Not only is the director taking on acting duties, he has also convinced an incredible supporting cast to back him up. The talent includes Daisy Ridley, Penélope Cruz, Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Olivia Colman, Willem Dafoe and more. Branagh has assembled quite the talented group for his old-fashioned drama. As good as this cast is, it is both Branagh and Pfeiffer who really shine. It’s fantastic to see the actress back on the big screen this year with MOTHER! and ORIENT EXPRESS. She is marvelous as a woman who clearly has a few things to hide. The second she appears on screen she is luminous and you can’t take your eyes off of her. This is not to say the others aren’t doing fine work, but it was truly Pfeiffer and Branagh that kept me invested.

murder on the orient express kenneth branagh johnny depp michelle pfeiffer daisy ridley judi dench agatha christie 2017

Considering most of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS takes place on a train, Branagh offers up a sense of style and dread as the train travels through some extraordinary locations; this includes a treacherous mountainside that brings an avalanche down on the engine leaving the many suspects stranded. The way the director brings the viewer into the story is certainly impressive. By using overhead shots and imaginative set ups - especially when he uses a bit of creative visual reflection for the scenes taking place on the dinner cart - this is a visually stunning experience. At the screening I attended, we were lucky enough to catch the film on 70 mm and it was a treat.

The biggest issue some may have is the lack of action. This take on the material remains mostly true to the original story without unnecessary violence. You aren't going to find a whole lot of bloodshed on display. While there is most certainly CG to enhance the time period it takes place in and the impressvie scenery, this feature avoids the modernized take that you'd find in say Guy Richie's SHERLOCK HOLMES. This is all about the characters and the dialogue, but thankfully Branagh and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos bring it to life in a remarkable way. However, some audiences may find the pacing a bit slow because of the lack of extreme thrills.

This remake of a classic mystery features an impressive cast and a lavishly stylized visual experience. The script by Michael Green manages to capture the essence of Poirot and what Agatha Christie gave fans. However, if you are looking for tons of explosions and a more typical modern day blockbuster experience, you may very well be disappointed. This is classic Agatha Christie in every way. Much like what he did for Shakespeare, Branagh has brought this story to the big screen in a satisfyingly engaging two hour journey. If you are looking for a lush and enjoyably old-fashioned feature, Kenneth Branagh has done a fine job of bringing Christie's tale of murder to life.

 

Source: JoBlo.com

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