Is ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ a sleuthing success as a re-telling of a classic story, or is it all just a bit of a train-wreck?
Based on the classic novel by Agatha Christie, ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ follows the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (played by Kenneth Branagh) on board a lavish train journey through Europe. But, when a passenger is found murdered, Poirot must stop his holiday and solve the case before him, as he tries to work out who from the remaining 13 passengers could’ve been the killer — all while the train is stranded in the snow-capped mountains, and before the murderer strikes again.
I should mention one thing first — I’m a big Poirot fan. I’ve read the books, seen the David Suchet films, etc. so was rather worried when I heard about this reasonably big blockbuster interpretation of the film coming out. However, I’m pleased to say that the film is excellent. There’s no Hollywood exaggeration, the plot stays true to the novel, and Kenneth Branagh is a brilliant Poirot. His portrayal is not simply lifted from the pages of Christie’s novel; his interpretation is slightly different, with a little bit more about him, and I really like it. Maybe you think this is a disgrace (along with Branagh’s giant moustache he sports for the role), but I think Branagh put his own spin on the character without making him too much of a Hollywood hero — think Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, versus Sherlock from the Arthur Conan Doyle books. Who would you rather sit for two hours and watch?
Apart from giving a really enjoyable performance as Poirot, Branagh also directed the film and, I must say, did just as good a job there. Some of the camera-work in this film is absolutely superb, one shot really sticking in my mind almost giving me vertigo — and I don’t get scared of heights. Look out for some really excellent birds-eye view shots as well throughout the film, especially when Poirot is sleuthing around looking for clues, which work really well. One thing I also noted from watching ‘Orient Express’ is how bright and colourful it is — and that’s a good thing! There’s only so much dark and gloomy, un-graded shots one can take before it starts to seem rather boring and cliché to have a brooding atmosphere. And that colour palette sets the tone for the rest of the movie: okay, it’s not a laugh every minute, but there’s a lot of jokes and quips (mostly with Branagh’s Poirot) and the film isn’t too dark in any places, much like the books that preceded it.
I only have one, slight criticism with the film and that is that the ending appears somewhat rushed. We never fully see how Poirot can put together the pieces to solve the crime, unlike what you might expect from murder-mysteries in TV Shows. However, apart from that the script works really well — especially fitting in room for the all-star cast, of which many were British, to have relevance to the plot. Daisy Ridley, Olivia Coleman, Judi Dench, Penélope Cruz, Johnny Deep, to name a few, appear in the film, and all their characters feel important within the proceedings of ‘Orient Express’.
Overall, ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ is a really excellent film, with great cast, performance and story. A slightly rushed ending is all that makes this film lose out, meaning it deserves a nine-out-of-ten.
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