Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Kenneth Branagh has always been a fan of classics. His career has been littered early on by Shakespeare productions both on the stage and on the screen, and his directing career has taken him to adaptations of classic stories such as Cinderellaor Murder on the Orient Express.
Murder on the Orient Express is adapted from the famous Agatha Christie novel of the same name, and is a remake of a Sydney Lumet adaptation back in 1974. For those unfamiliar with the story, a group of wealthy passengers aboard the famous luxury Orient Express are stuck in Eastern Europe after their tracks become snowed over. During this stop, someone ends up murdered, and the world-renowned detective Hercules Poirot (played by Branagh himself), who happens to be a passenger, takes it upon himself to find the murderer.
For many mainstream audiences expecting a tense and violent mystery thriller similar to Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train you will be disappointed. Agatha Christie’s mysteries are more calculated and take a while to brew. The story, unlike some famed Sherlock Holmes mysteries, is more about the characters than the crime. Branagh, clearly being a fan, is very careful with his source material and yet is able to relish in it. Personally, when a director has such passion for a project, it is exuded onscreen and it gives it a more favorable light. Branagh is able to stay loyal to Christie’s novel tonally, and thus keeps certain purity for it.
As for trying to get this faded form of mystery-telling to mainstream audiences, Branagh brings an all-star cast with him. The likes of Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, and Michelle Pfieffer, to name a few, make appearances. For such a big cast full of many A-list egos, it would be incredibly hard for Branagh to dole out equal screen time for all in his cast, but being an experienced director he somehow finds that sweet balance without derailing his pace for the story.
In the end, I was very pleased with this remake; not only to see the great actors in the cast battle it out on screen, but also because of Branagh’s delicate yet passionate hand. The film might rely a bit too much on CGI for it’s opening scenes, but once we’re all cramped in the train compartments, it’s an absolute thrill.