MOVIE REVIEW: Murder on the Orient Express

Kenneth Brannagh stars as Hercule Poirot and also directs this murder mystery thriller based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name.  The world’s most famous detective Poirot has to travel from Istanbul to England to take care of a case.  After solving a theft in Jerusalem he is in need of some downtime with his Charles Dickens novel and to recharge the little grey cells.  Little does he know that on the worlds most luxurious train there is a murder that will test his mental powers and his belief in justice to the limit.

Like most people I have a favourite Bond, I’m not going to go into that now, different film company and that means it’s not relevant.  Some people though have a favourite Hercule Poirot, for some it’s Albert Finney, a lot have Peter Ustinov, and for me and many of my generation it’s David Suchet who played the Belgian Detective as perfect as one can ever hope.  The biggest problem I have with this version of Murder on the Orient Express isn’t this version, it’s the David Suchet version.  The Suchet version of the story is to me the most entertaining and character expanding adaptation of the story.

If you don’t know the story then this one will be something that you’ll probably enjoy, I mean the moustache on Brannagh alone is worth the price of admission.  A group of very famous faces are travelling from Istanbul to France on the train, all with their own secrets and quirks, and a murder takes place.  The only thing is that the most likely suspect and the easiest solution to the crime doesn’t fit in the mind of the Greatest Detective.  As he interviews his fellow passengers on the train it becomes clear that there is more to the victim than meets the eye, and deception is all around him, how can he get to the truth?

The storytelling is perfectly fine, and the all star cast that join Brannagh are also great at what they are doing, it’s nice to see Johnny Depp not having his usual crutch of out of the ordinary make up to help him through.  If I was sitting down on a Sunday afternoon with nothing else to do I would gladly watch this film time and time again.  It’s fine.  But when you have the Albert Finney version, with an over the top Poirot, and then you have the character building seriousness of the Suchet episode, it’s hard to judge this as anything but fine.

The biggest problem that I had was Brannagh’s version of Poirot, it seems that he believes that Poirot is another Sherlock homes, a mixture between the more recent film and TV versions of the character.  He even places in scenes of action which for this character are unnecessary and feel a little forced.  Also the previous crime that leads to the murder is not done with enough urgency so that the viewer is invested in that, those who know what I mean will understand that the murder that sets the ball rolling, isn’t given the attention and thrown in as an after thought.

This is still better and more enjoyable than most thrillers, but when it comes to recent adaptations of Christie’s work it just falls short.  If you don’t know the story, and if you’re a fan of the many famous performers that are playing the diverse cast, then you are probably going to enjoy this film.  For fans of Christie it may seem that it’s just an average adaption in a time where great adaptations of her work are being done.  The term middle of the road seems good for this film but I guess that should be middle of the tracks.

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Michael Green (screenplay by), Agatha Christie (based upon the novel by)
Stars: Daisy RidleyJohnny DeppMichelle Pfeiffer & more… See full cast & crew

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