Kenneth Branagh directs and stars in the newest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s mystery classic in which murder most foul strikes aboard the luxurious Orient Express, leaving celebrated Belgian detective Hercule Poirot to figure out who amongst the passengers iiizzz ze guilteee parteee.
Shot on 65mm film stock, this lavish-looking caper starts off well, with an old-fashioned feel to the proceedings that includes an elegant use of tracking shots and some Hitchcockian navigation of the locomotive’s confined space. However, despite a strong start, Murder on the Orient Express quickly runs out of steam once the murder occurs, leaving the film to plod along with about as much pulse as the recently departed. More egregiously, the shrug-worthy final reveal will make even those unfamiliar with the story sigh, and the cast feels underused – and when you have Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley and Johnny Depp on your thespian roster, that’s the real crime.
Ultimately, this fourth adaptation of the famous whodunit feels like a perfunctory rehash, one which pales compared to Sidney Lumet’s 1974 version, and one that can’t stir up the same excitement as the 2010 TV version, which starred David Suchet as perhaps the ultimate Poirot. Credit where credit’s due: Branagh’s meticulous direction works and he evidently had a great time hamming it up as the mannered sleuth. So, lower your expectations and you will find things to enjoy, not least the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World, a feat of engineering which sees the leading man sport deliriously ornate upper-lip plumage: a moustache that seems to have grown a moustache of its own. It might not be worth the price of admission, and nor does it excuse the guffaw-inducing sequel-baiting line “You’re needed in Egypt – there’s been a murder on the bloody Nile!”, but it’s undeniably a sight to behold.
Murder on the Orient Express / Directed by Kenneth Branagh (US, 2017), with Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Derek Jacobi. Starts Nov 9.
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