“If there was a murder, then there was a murderer.” ★★★☆☆
Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express felt as though it had a lot of potential, especially being filled with a star-studded cast. But after coming out of the viewing, it felt underwhelming, almost as though, pardon the pun, it ran out of steam.
The glittering line-up of characters include a British governess (Daisy Ridley), an Austrian professor (Willem Dafoe), a snobbish Russian princess (Dame Judi Dench) who is accompanied by her German maid (Olivia Coleman), a Spanish missionary (Penelope Cruz), a secretary (Josh Gad), brash blonde (Michelle Pfeiffer) and a dodgy dealer (Johnny Depp). With a cast that tall and illustrious, it’s a shame they don’t get as much screen time as their abilities deserve.
Of course, the tale is very well known so for some, they already know what to expect going into it, but that didn’t stop the disappointment creeping in halfway through as the film failed to pick up speed heading towards the climax.
Despite that, Kenneth Branagh is superb in the role of Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, as he hunts for clues and attempts to solve the mystery in a manner that reminds you of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes. His perception of a perfectionist provides many comedic moments, for example, Poirot steps into a big pile of horse manure with his right boot, but must step into it with his left boot as well to maintain exact balance.
One co-star that doesn’t receive a credit is the enormous, bushy moustache that Branagh sports, with the character, even having a case for it when he sleeps.
The story itself is engaging and for viewers who don’t know the original story, will find it fun as they grow with the characters and revel as the mystery unfolds. The climax delivers strongly with a believable culmination which rips at the heartstrings.
The visually stunning cinematography is one of the highlights of the film, with establishing shots in the middle of mountains, looking down on busy cities, and engaging in tracking shots as Poirot walks from one end of the sleek, mahogany train to the other.
The fascinating shots are owed to Branagh’s choice of 65mm Panavision camera, the same ones that were used for the summer blockbuster, Dunkirk, which he also starred in. He described the way he used the rare equipment, saying: “We wanted to bring the full experience to the audience so I shot on film. It essentially means it looks sharper, richer, more colourful, and feels like you’re inside.”
Branagh has previously expressed his desire to add further instalments if Murder on the Orient Express was a success, and added a cheeky little reference to another of Agatha Christie’s novels, Death on the Nile, as a parting gift.
Check out the trailer for Murder on the Orient Express here: