Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express is a great adaptation of an Agatha Christie classic

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) – Film Review

One of the the most famous examples of the whodunnit genre featuring world famous detective Hercule Poirot, there’s a lot of people of a certain age who will know how Murder on the Orient Express ends and that’s one of the drawbacks of adapting material that’s been out there since 1934.

Kenneth Branagh stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Kenneth Branagh stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

On the other hand, there’s something very reassuring about the traditional movie making methods that director, and star, Kenneth Branagh has chosen to approach this material with.

As Poirot, Branagh started with a fantastic interpretation of the Belgian detective’s famous moustache (or moustaches to be more accurate) and an OCD, fussy manner that compares well with David Suchet’s more mannered performances as the “greatest detective in the world”.

Suchet was just one of the many great actors to have portrayed the fussy Belgian – including Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov in classic film adaptations – from author Agatha Christie’s famous detective’s cases over the last few decades.

As befits the legendary title, Murder on the Orient Express is opulently shot with some epic visuals along the way – filmed on 65mm film stock –  and the key to enjoy this kind of mystery is not the inevitable reveal at the end but – as with the opulent train that the characters are on – the delicious journey taken to get there.

Branagh’s Poirot is a joy to watch, going through the evidence meticulously – and the relatively shorter running time of a movie is offset by the truly star studded cast even if we get little more than sketches of the relatively huge cast of suspects as illustrated in the trailer.

Johnny Depp stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Johnny Depp stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Agatha Christie’s crime fiction has always been popular, and perhaps the slightly misleading music used in the trailer obscures a much more traditional adaptation than you’d think although some scenes – most notably an homage to The Last Supper tableau during the big reveal – seem a little obvious.

In fact watching the film, it’s easy to see that most of the cast appear to be having a whale of a time during their stint on the Orient Express.

By way of contrast, the discovery of the murder victim is shot in a much more innovative way that the otherwise traditional scenes depicted in the film – with the change of viewpoint from the victim to an overhead angle marking out Branagh’s willingness to deviate from the more traditional mystery filming techniques.

With rival detective Sherlock Holmes extremely popular with star Robert Downey Junior as Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation it would seem a return to the big screen for another detective was long overdue and Branagh delivers a film that will appeal to family audiences of all ages even if some minds might be blown by the (authentic) solution.

There’s a nice hint towards another famous mystery to solve for Poirot at the end – and I hope we get to see it.

Murder on the Orient Express (12A; moderate violence, occasional bloody images; 114 minutes)

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast Includes: Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Lucy Boynton, Sergei Polunin, Marwan Kenzari, Olivia Colman, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Tom Bateman, Miranda Raison

Summary: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS is a mystery drama in which a renowned detective’s holiday is interrupted when a murder is committed aboard the train on which he is travelling.

Rating: **** (Classy murder mystery adaptation, and suitable for family viewing too)