Review: Murder on the Orient Express (2017 film)

Does Murder on the Orient Express count as a Christmas film? There’s no mention to the time or date but it is set in snow. Anyway here’s my review of the 2017 film Murder on the Orient Express staring and directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh.

Spoilers ahead!

Good

Let me start by saying that the film was much better than I thought it would be. I was worried it would have a similar tone to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows. I’d received that impression from the trailer in which there appeared to be a chase scene on an iron bridge, a scene that would of been out of character for David Suchet’s Poirot to perform. Although the film was more action packed than previous incarnations it was still thoroughly gripping and enjoyable. I liked Sir Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of the Belgian detective more than I thought I would even if I did miss David Suchet’s waddle.

The film was also interesting from a director’s view point. Most of the film took place on the train and as such there wasn’t a lot of room for camera crew. This meant the camera had to be placed in creative positions such as on a track in the roof of the carriages (giving the audience a bird’s eye view) or positioned outside the train and aimed through the windows. To clarify, the film wasn’t constrained to the train, the cast moved onto the roof of the carriages, under the train via a iron bridge (you’ll notice such a bridge does not exist in previous adaptations or in the source material), into train tunnels and onto snowy clearings beside the line. Normally I wouldn’t notice such details and just follow the story but some particular shots such as Sir Kenneth Branagh illuminated by the engine’s headlight or Sir Kenneth Branagh walking the length of the train for the final time, are captivating.

Bad

The problem with any adaptation of Murder On The Orient Express is that the story is arguably one of the most famous murder mysteries in the world and due to this everyone knows the twist ending. At points it felt as if I was just watching the film roll along to its inevitable conclusion. I also questioned the pacing of the film at points, it seemed to take ages to collect the cast and place them on the train so the story could continue. Most of the cast were not given much scene time or development, Judi Dench for example, was only given one or two lines of dialogue. Considering most of the cast are A class actors it seems a great shame to waste their talent.

Conclusion

If you’re a Agatha Christie fan then this is a must see. Personally I preferred the 2010 David Suchet’s version but if this incarnation of Poirot is granted more screen time (Sir Kenneth Branagh has hinted at more Poriot films depending on the success of this film) then I might change my mind.

I’ll award Murder On The Orient Express 8 elaborate moustaches out of 10.

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