“Murder on the Orient Express” stars Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley. Released on November 10, 2017, the film is about a detective who sets out to investigate a murder on the Orient Express train.
The film is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also directed films such as Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Thor, and Cinderella. It is based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie. There are lots of people in this world who are familiar with the source material that captivated plenty of murder mystery fans. I, for one, am not one of those people. I recognized a couple of references of the novel on television, but I hadn’t experienced the source of those references myself until now. This is the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s popular novel, following the 1974 film, the 2001 television film, and the 2010 episode of the British crime series, Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Since I am unfamiliar with the last three adaptations, I will be looking at it as its own film and see if it lives up to Branagh’s other films that I’ve seen recently.
Like the previous adaptations and the source material, the story is a simple, yet complex, murder mystery that involves Hercule Poirot (Branagh) and his attempt to find the culprit responsible for the death of a businessman (played by Johnny Depp). Now what do I mean when I said that the story is simple, yet complex? Well, the way I see it, the plot itself was uncomplicated on paper, but the actual journey of the mystery is something that you have to pay attention to so you won’t get lost. If you’re familiar with the book or the other adaptations, then you’ll be able to follow the story without any problems, even though it's the same as the other versions. As its own film, I thought it was a nice watch. The story itself had a few rough patches down the road, however. It had a few interesting moments that kept me engaged with the mystery, but it also had its moments where it struggled to find a certain balance between thrills and interrogation. It’s the type of movie that relies more on dramatic investigation and less on the action, so if you’re hoping for this one to fall in the same veins as Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, then this is one train that you don’t want to ride on. The pacing in the film does get a little slow from time to time, but it manages to chug along at a suitable pace without falling in line with the pacing in Blade Runner. The casting in the film was downright impressive, ranging from the talented Branagh as Poirot to the lovely Daisy Ridley as one of the suspects, and their performances were solid enough to make the film worth watching. I also thought the makeup and costume designs were splendid in terms of the film’s 1930s setting, especially the design of Poirot. I hardly recognize Branagh underneath the makeup and his unusual mustache, which symbolizes the fact that I didn’t watch the actor portraying the character, I watched the character himself. So, big points for the makeup team.
Overall, Kenneth Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express” is obviously similar to the previous adaptations of Agatha Christie’s novel, which isn’t saying much. As its own film, however, it’s a pleasant, yet mildly flawed, mystery that relies on a talented cast and the costume designs to keep things chugging along until the very end. The execution of its storytelling isn’t something for me to write home about, but everything else is suitable enough for me to recommend it to those who have read the book and to those who enjoy movies that make them think.