TL;DR – A perfectly pleasant presentation of Poirot’s perceived peculiarities as he pertains the proceeds of a pernicious passing.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Disney+ streaming service that viewed this film
Murder on the Orient Express Review –
Every year, you intend to see one or two films, but they manage to slip out of your hands like the one fish they need to eat in Alone. In 2017, one of those films was Murder on the Orient Express, a modern adaptation of the classic book and film. Indeed, if nothing else, the cast list alone merits giving this one a watch. Today, given that I am about to watch the sequel, it felt like a better now than never prospect, so let’s dive in.
So to set the scene, it is 1934, and we start in Jerusalem at The Wailing Wall, where hotel staff are making eggs for a painfully precise Poirot (Kenneth Branagh). A Rabbi, a Priest, and an Iman are accused of stealing a relic, and the city is about to explode into a riot. Well, one arrested police chief later, and a boat ride to Istanbul, Hercule Poirot and an assortment of colourful characters board the famous/infamous Orient Express, three days of peace and no crime, bar for a bit of murder discovered after an avalanche derails the train. A train full of people, one of them a killer, and the threat that more may die before the snow is cleared.
I liked that there was a clear attempt to have some interesting framing throughout the film. You have John Cassetti (Johnny Depp), who walks into his cabin only to be revealed by three different mirrors reflecting his soul. Or the joy of Poirot and Linda Arden (Michelle Pfeiffer) sparring in dialogue as they rush through a train, filmed from the outside, creating a fascinating juxtaposition. Throughout the film, you see these moments that help sell the potential culprits’ duplicitous nature, and it was a nice touch.
Another strength was the cast, which might have the biggest names in one outing outside of a franchise blockbuster [though, given that it now has a sequel and was already part of a book series, maybe it was already a franchise blockbuster]. Kenneth Branagh does an excellent job of making Poirot feel like a professional who knows his stuff without making him be a dick, well, most of the time. The supporting cast is also great, but when you have Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Olivia Colman, and frankly everyone else in this film creating wonderful little moments, well, it is a delight. Michelle Pfeiffer is the MVP, given how much she has to do throughout, but everyone gets a moment to shine.
While I did enjoy my time here, it is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. The sets that they filmed the train shots on were excellent, as were some of the large matte paintings of the surroundings. Unfortunately, the actual Orient Express, even for 2017, the CGI train looks a bit naff. Also, from a narrative perspective, this is one of the most well-known Who-Done-It/Murder Mysteries in literature because of the big reveal at the end. So, the narrative has to work for those who know the outcome and those who don’t, and I am not sure they quite got that balance right.
In the end, do we recommend Murder on the Orient Express? Yes, we do. It is not a film without its flaws, but the charm of the cast and setting help break through that. If you liked Murder on the Orient Express, we would also recommend to you Knives Out.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Murder on the Orient Express
Directed by – Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by – Michael Green
Based on – Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Music by – Patrick Doyle
Cinematography by – Haris Zambarloukos
Edited by – Mick Audsley
Production/Distribution Companies – Kinberg Genre, The Mark Gordon Company, Scott Free Productions & 20th Century Fox
Starring – Kenneth Branagh, Tom Bateman, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Marwan Kenzari, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin, Phil Dunster & Miranda Raison
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13