Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Murder on the Orient Express poster Rating: 6.8/10 (9,033 votes)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Michael Green (screenplay by), Agatha Christie (based upon the novel by)
Stars: Paapa Essiedu, Yassine Zeroual, Asan N'Jie, Michael Rouse
Runtime: 114 min
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Released: 10 Nov 2017
Plot: A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man's race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.

The classic story by Agatha Christie has been adapted a few other times before this latest version, and suffice to say if you have seen any one of the previous adaptations then you will already know the outcome.  In fact, as one of the most well known of the tales of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, it is likely you know the reveal even if you haven’t read or seen any version to date.  So, watching this all star cast, led by and directed by Kenneth Branagh (who takes the lead role as Poirot), unravel the plot will have to be engaging in order to stand up to scrutiny.  Suffice to say Branagh delivers a by-the-numbers adaptation, which would have been a pretty average experience were it not for the strong cast and some marvellous cinematography and lensing choices.

What a cast!

For those who are blissfully unaware, the tale has it that the famous detective Hercule Poirot takes passage on the famous Orient Express, returning home after solving another case.  As luck would befall it, a murder takes place, and any one of the passengers could be a suspect.  An avalanche derails the train giving Poirot time to investigate the crime and work out the killer, and he sets about seeking clues and talking to each of the passengers to put together events leading up to and after the murder.

Branagh is on fine form as Poirot, even if those fans who are accustomed to other interpretations of the character may be a little taken aback.  But his presence does not take away from the strong line-up he has surrounded himself with.  Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfifer, Derek Jacobi, and Olivia Coleman all make their presences felt, whilst never stepping on anyone else’s toes.  A few weaker elements of the cast in the guise of Josh Gad (who admittedly is showing more form than anything else he has ever been in), and Daisy Ridley (who, aside from her presence in a certain sci-fi franchise, has shown nothing close to any ability aside that to smile a lot) don’t rock the boat too much, and thankfully don’t have a huge impact on the proceedings.

Or, to be accurate, rock the train.

But the true star of this adaptation is the direction and camerawork.  There’s a use of cut glass partitions which, when first used you feel may be a mistake of setting up – the partition getting in the way of the shot – but swiftly realise that the manner in which the glass divides each occupant into two images is intentional.  Showing that everyone has a hidden ‘other side’ to their story, it reflects on the dual nature them all, and how they can each be considered a suspect.  A further use to split one character into three images is the icing on the cake for the trick.  The additional inclusion of a ‘Last Supper’ shot is just Branagh showing off, but in a good way.

Throughout the film the production value is the element that impresses most, with great attention to detail in set design, costume, location, and attitudes.  A small line of dialogue in the final moments teases at a sequel choice (and one which has now been greenlit thanks to the success of this entry), and it is a welcome tease.  I, for one, would be happy to see more Poirot adventures on the big screen.

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