Murder On The Orient Express (2017 USA)

An update on the much revered original of 1974, here is the ultimate luvvie himself, Kenneth bloody Branagh, and he has actually come up with the goods here. Ignore the nay sayers…they declare he’s derailed Agatha Christie’s novel– but I say (and its my blog, so I can) that he’s certainly breathed enough steam into the old locomotive to keep it chugging to its destination: an entertaining and involving cinematic experience. Even Kenny’s much maligned mustache deserves an Oscar for effort. This is facial art without peer.

For a story that takes place almost entirely on a train, director Branagh uses the limited space well, for as this narrative unfolds, it doesn’t feel too claustrophobic on the eye. Even in the narrow hallways and the tight compact cabins. Shifting the camera into creative perspectives at times helps keep the scenes fresh and visually stimulating (I especially enjoyed the birds eye view of the murder scene). The pacing is snappy and energetic and at no point feels like its running out of… coal. Mr Luvvie Branagh should also be commended for the way he juggles a story consisting of such a myriad of actors, by giving each character their own perspectives and motives, helps to keep the viewer on their toes; questioning every nuance and detail and while some are barely given any screen time, most feel substantially explored.

Its 1934 and Hercule Poirot (played by –yes, tis he again– Kenneth Branagh) is about to embark on a much needed break after solving a recent mystery in Jerusalem. He is still under his oath that within most cases, there is only right or wrong. In needing to return to London, he’s given a spot on the Orient Express, which seems to be fully booked. He’s approached by an American businessman, Samuel Ratchett (played by Johnny Depp) to work for him, but Poirot declines. The next morning, Ratchett is found to have been stabbed to death. * Apology for that big spoiler * An avalanche has also derailed the steam engine, stranding the rest of the passengers. Poirot decides to take the case to curb his boredom. It’s on this train he interviews all the suspects; wet nurse Pilar (played by Penélope Cruz), scientist Gerhard (played by William Defoe), the princess Dragomiroff (played by that old battleaxe, Judi Dench) accountant Hector (played by Josh Gad), Doctor Arbuthnot (played by Leslie Odom Jr.), traveler Caroline (played by Michelle Pfeiffer), and Mary (played by Daisy Ridley).

I better stop there before giving away anything else. It’s common for a lot of murder mysteries to have a lot of characters, but given what exactly is being solved here, it may have benefited to cut two or three of the background characters in order to tighten everything. But even with the over abundance of characters, all the main actors shine, especially Kenneth Branagh, who is a very likable and fun chap to follow. His accent and tone has the right balance of over-the-top yet subtle, making him seem like someone who could be that eccentric and intelligent. I’d also say that Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, and Michelle Pfeiffer do a lot with the material they are given. That’s not to put a damper on everyone else. Anyway, was this remake necessary? No. Is it fun? Yes. And for those expecting a lot of physical action, they will need to look elsewhere. But for those of us who like an old fashioned mystery, even if we know who done it and why, Murder on the Orient Express is just the ticket. Get on board.



  1. I will say, I enjoyed this adaptation but I still prefer the 1974 film since it has charm and elegance. But a big factor that I think was important was how true it was to the novel, but that doesn’t mean Branagh changed too much of the story. Personally, I agree that this movie was enjoyable but atleast give some credit to the 1974 version, since it’s the most accurate and charming.

    Liked by 1 person

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