The last big screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s iconic Murder on the Orient Express was 43 years ago, but thanks to Kenneth Branagh, fans get a well-deserved updated version of this mystery thriller.
For those not familiar with the story, the title does give it all away. There really is a murder on the Orient Express! Twelve people board a train to travel through Europe, seemingly all are strangers to each other, or are they? On their first night, a millionaire passenger, Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp), ends up brutally stabbed to death without anyone seeing the killer. So who is the culprit? And how did they go unnoticed? The task of finding out the answers is up to Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), the “greatest detective in the world”, who also happens to be on the Orient Express as an invited guest of Wolfgang Bouc (Tom Bateman), a man who works for the railway company.
The most striking aspects of Murder on the Orient Express are the grand set designs and costumes which play a major part in adding a luxurious glamour and tone to the story. Branagh shot the film in 65 mm and which makes it even more evident that nothing was spared when it came to the magnificently crafted production.
Joining Depp and Branagh (and his marvellous moustache) are other distinguished talents such as: Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leslie Odom Jr, Judi Dench and Willem Dafoe, just to name a few. As the main focus of the story is Poirot finding the culprit, audiences end up learning very little of the other characters. Each has a limited amount of dialogue in the film; this is where the involvement of high profile actors is beneficial to the film, as it would have a lesser impact and interest if unknowns were cast.
Though it mostly sticks to the original set up, Branagh does stray a bit with certain scenarios, perhaps in an effort to create an air of uncertainty and surprise amongst those who know the storyline. One of the new scenes towards the finale resembles Learnado Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”.
Perhaps the biggest weakness is the way the story is depicted. Recreating a beloved crime story and making it new and interesting is not an easy task, most of us know or at least familiar with what takes place. However, restraining some aspects of the plot in the first half would have added the intensity and mystery the film needs. As it stands, even if you never heard of Agatha Christie’s story, you’d still be able to figure out the outcome at least half way through.
With that being said, it’s enjoyable to experience such a film on the big screen – especially if you are an Agatha Christie fan. The production, talent, and stunning cinematography makes it that much more worth watching, though don’t expect an intense brain teaser. Just sit back and enjoy being transported into a world of old glamour, luxury, and murder.
Murder on the Orient Express certainly seems to hint that it’s the first in a franchise.
I rate it 6.5 out of 10.
Murder on the Orient Express is in cinemas now.