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11/19/17

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017) - REVIEW


While remaking the Oscar-winning 1974 movie adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder On The Orient Express instead of taking a stab at less well-known Hercule Poirot story is a bit of a shame, Kenneth Branagh aims to reintroduce the Belgian sleuth to a new generation and it makes sense that he would pick this classic story.

Branagh portrays Poirot himself, of course, and we first meet him in Jerusalem where he publicly solves a simple enough case before heading back to London on the Orient Express. Kenneth Branagh makes a likeable and perfectly decent Hercule Poirot, despite the occasionally mispronounced French word. He balances out the character's intelligence and ridiculousness very well. The rest of the characters are played by an all-star cast including the likes of Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe and others. As the film's main victim, Depp gives maybe a bit too flashy of a performance to be completely convincing but that never gets too distracting. Everyone else plays their part extremely well, even the usually more comedy-oriented Josh Gad who shines in a rare serious dramatic turn. The Orient Express itself is presented in an appropriately grand way through beautiful sweeping establishing shots and a carefully crafted pre-boarding sequence.

There are quite a few changes to how the story was told in the original film here and sometimes that works like when it comes to the Armstrong case that links all the characters to each other: we're made to discover this case as the film progresses rather than being given a clue early on. Unfortunately, the writing isn't quite as sharp as it was in Sidney Lumet's film so each Poirot interview with the other characters fails to stand out as all that unique or memorable and the overall resolution feels rushed. In the original, Poirot laid out clearly what exactly happened the night of the murder and how every suspect fit into that but here, anyone not already familiar with the story will leave with a whole bunch of questions. Besides, seeing the detective take his time deciphering these situations is usually the best part of those movies so not being able to see that is a pity. Also, this film lacks the genuinely creepy cult-like aspect of the murder when it was finally shown to us in the 1974 classic.

Kenneth Branagh's Poirot is promising but this particular story is only a moderate success. Since the film ends hinting at further instalments, one can only hope that more attention to detail and pacing will be given to later stories. As it stands, this is a decent watch and by no means a bad movie but I would suggest checking out the superior original first.

Fair revisiting.

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