Murder on the Orient Express brings to life a classic mystery movie, where the audience will play along in trying to solve the crime. Based on the popular novel by Agatha Christie the story centres around a detective trying to solve a murder, but when everyone is a suspect who can you trust? Kenneth Branagh directs an all star cast that includes himself, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Marwan Kenzari, Olivia Colman, and Lucy Boynton.
The film opens with the eccentric detective, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), trying to solve a crime in Jerusalem in 1934. We begin to see just how his mind works, a gift and a curse that has allowed him to build fame as the greatest detective in the world (sorry Batman). Poirot travels to Istanbul for a much-needed holiday when he receives a telegram from England urging him to take a case, and must board the luxury train known as The Orient Express. As he navigates his way through the train, he encounters all the different characters travelling across Europe with him. During the journey the train becomes trapped in snow, and a passenger is murdered in their sleep. As works attempt to dig the train out, it is up to Poirot to solve the case before the murderer can escape.
Despite the dramatic nature of a murder mystery, Murder on the Orient Express has a surprising amount of humour and fun around the dark concept. The way the eccentric nature of the films protagonist can create humour inside of a dark story without detracting from the seriousness of the film is a credit to Kenneth Branagh has a filmmaker and actor. The mystery itself is actually the fun part, as the audience will try and piece together the clues as to who the killer might be. Some clues are obvious, others are misleading but that is half the fun of the movie, trying to solve the ever-changing narrative.
Having never read the original Agatha Christie, I cannot comment as to how faithful this adaptation is, but the feel of it is similar to what you would expect from a 1930’s murder mystery. I also think it is important to not spoil the ending of the film, something the marketing did exceptional well, by not giving away which passenger is even murdered. Fox left clues in all their marketing to who the victim and killer are, but these can only be found if you look hard, or are perhaps a great detective like the films protagonist.
For a movie of this scale to have the large number of talented actors is an impressive feat in it’s own right. All you have to do is look at the trailer or the poster and see the acclaim that so many of these actors have achieved. The combination of experienced and recognised actors with new up and coming talent helps as each actor is able to bring their own flavour to their characters. We have seen films with great ensembles but Murder on the Orient Express may just have the most prestigious. We see great performances from the whole cast but in particular Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Josh Gad and Daisy Ridley, the later who is really coming into her own as an actor. The cast are not the only stand out of the movie, the cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos, brilliantly shoots a movie that largely takes place in one location, the train, but doesn’t allow the story to feel claustrophobic. He also frames the movie with different angles, such as overhead shots, exterior shots and distorted shots through glass. The camera work is another way the movie feels fresh and engaging.
As much fun as the story is, it is the conclusion that ultimately lets the movie down. Without spoiling the reveal, the story choses to put forth a moral dilemma that the movie did not lay a strong enough foundation to sustain. Though the conclusion is interesting, it doesn’t feel fulfilling in the same way the bulk of the investigation does. The movie wraps up, but not in a manor that does the narrative justice.
Despite the negativity surrounding the conclusion of the film, Murder on the Orient Express has a strong story full of great characters and an intriguing mystery. The way the movie was shot enhance the game of who done it, and the audience can have a fun time playing along in solving the crime. The movie would be best served being viewed on the bigger screen, especially since it was shot on 65mm film. The destination may not bring much joy but journey is one hell of a ride.
Recommendation: Check it out if you’re a fan of mild murder mysteries. It is worth seeing on the big screen for the visuals.
Murder on the Orient Express scores a 7/10
Thank you for reading my review of Murder on the Orient Express. Is this a movie you would like to see? Have you seen it already? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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