So I’ve finally got around to watching Murder On The Orient Express, the latest cinematic portrayal of the novel of the same name, written by legendary author Agatha Cristie, this film is directed by Kenneth Branagh and follows famed detective Hercule Poirot, who has a knack for solving seemingly unsolvable crimes – finding himself aboard a train which a murder takes place on. The film stars Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Daisey Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe, Penelope Cruz, Leslie Odom Jr.
I won’t lie, I’m not too familiar with Agatha Christies body of work or with MOTE in particular either but I was drawn to the film due to my own interest in turn of the 20th century/early 1900s in general, the talented Kenneth Branagh both directs and starts in this adaptation which is quite a feat, producing a final product that actually isn’t that bad I feel. Despite all the signs possibly signally otherwise, with such a large ensemble cast and Branagh directing himself, one could assume the film is a bit self indulgent because of the star power on show but it’s not quite that. That being said, the writing does lend itself to the theatrical in a sense, with over the top characters, dialogue and specific scenes that almost feel like you’re watching a play, especially with the lavish sets and fancy old-timey costumes (Oh I do love a period drama).
The cast is actually really sold on the whole, from the lesser known actors right up to Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz, with Josh gad in particular bringing a memorable performance, the problem with films with such large casts like this is that you often don’t have enough time to really explore them all which may be a weak point for the story, especially when you have more interesting characters hanging around. And to be fair, MOTE isn’t exempt from this, with a handful of quite weird, intriguing characters that are on the fringes of the story, maybe understandably taking a back seat to the central murder mystery which is fair enough. The good writing of the novels story itself does drive the film forward though, with the murder keeping you mostly engaged as you watch, though the solution does get a tad convoluted into the final third of the film but it does wrap itself up quite nicely I feel.
And speaking of performances, you simply can’t avoid Branagh as the larger than life Poirot, eccentric but a brilliant mind, he is the star of the show and one of the best features of the film as a whole, bringing enthusiasm to every scene he’s in, coupled with serious determination as well, making for a dynamic, interesting character. People unfamiliar with Christies novels may find Poirot a bit cartoonish and strange without any back story to him but it’s a credit to the film to let people sort of fill in the blanks for now, without throwing a tonne of exposition to describe Poirot, we may not know much about him now in the context of the films world but we may find out.
Ultimately Murder On The Orient Express is a decent enough film, not exactly ground breaking but I don’t think it was intended to be, with a large cast that on the whole does a great job, great costume design and production and a memorable performance from Brannagh, I’d like to see more of him as Poirot going forward.
. Has some strong perfromances
. Engaging plot, keeps audience interest
. Final third may lose some viewers interest, plot gets a bit convoluted