Frances Winston reviews this remake of the Agatha Christie classic, Murder On The Orient Express
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh – Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr.
This is one of those movies that has been made and remade, and then remade again for good measure – usually with a star-studded cast. The fact that it has merited so many interpretations is testament to the fact that this is possibly one of Agatha Christie’s finest, and most complex, murder-mysteries.
The star of the show is her famous detective, Hercule Poirot, played here by Branagh. It is extremely unlikely that anybody reading this has never encountered him in some form, whether it be through the books, TV adaptations, or the numerous movies made featuring him, so I won’t bother explaining who he is. Equally, it is extremely unlikely that most people aren’t familiar with at least the basic plot of this story, so I won’t go into a synopsis for fear of spoiling it for the few who aren’t.
Suffice to say the clue is in the title. There is a murder, and it takes place on the Orient Express. As is usually the case in Agatha’s Christie’s whodunnits, there are multiple suspects, each one has a very solid motive, and Poirot must use all his powers of deduction to narrow the line-up down to the actual criminal.
Set in the 30s, Murder On The Orient Express exudes glamour, and the opulence you would expect, given the setting. It has expanded the world of the original story, changing the race of some characters to give it a more contemporary feel. It also takes some of the action off the famous train, and out into the snowy landscape. It is these and a few other subtle changes to Christie’s original tale that ensure this stands out as a work separate to all the other interpretations.
Branagh plays Poirot, somewhat more bad-ass than you may be used to seeing him, clearly trying to put his own stamp on the role. Meanwhile the rest of the cast avoid the temptation to ham it up or pull focus, and despite all the big names, this truly feels like an ensemble effort.
The cinematography is stunning. Despite the fact that it is technically set on a train, Branagh takes full advantage of the landscape. Also the costumes are magnificent, and will surely be in the running for a few awards when the season comes around. The script is extremely witty, and manages to avoid slipping into stilted territory too often – something which is often an issue with Christie interpretations.
It is hard to make a story that has been done so often feel original, but Branagh does it. It dips slightly in places, but on the whole, this is a solid interpretation of the tale. There are one or two continuity issues that bugged me slightly (if someone has a prominent mole on their face, please don’t EVER flip the shot editors!) but not enough to detract from my enjoyment.
Despite knowing the outcome of the movie, I was still interested in seeing how Poirot got there. It also sets itself up nicely for a sequel – Death on the Nile. This will appeal to Christie fans, and anyone who likes epic old-school storytelling. It veers somewhere between high drama and high camp, but it does work, and at less than two hours, it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Extremely entertaining, and beautiful to look at, this is a worthy addition to the Christie catalogue.
In Cinemas Now!