There is a reason why Murder On The Orient Express is considered one of Agatha Christie’s finest murder mysteries.
The premise is simple enough – a man is stabbed to death on the Orient Express, and renowned detective Hercule Poirot has to figure out who amongst the other 12 passengers is a cold-hearted murderer.
While the story may SEEM simple, the way the mystery unfolds and the steps Poirot takes towards solving the case is anything but.
Christie turned the seemingly straightforward mystery into an intriguing maze of clues and red herrings that, when seen through the eyes of the inimitably complex Poirot, made for a masterpiece in murder mystery writing.
The novel is so good that it inspired a 1974 film, a 2001 TV film, a 2010 episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirt, and even a 2015 Japanese adaptation.
This Kenneth Branagh-directed version stars Branagh himself as Poirot, with Johnny Depp playing the doomed Mr. Ratchett alongside a star-studded cast that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad and Willem Dafoe.
Branagh’s version stays largely faithful to the original novel’s story, with a few minor changes here and there – 13 passengers on a train (not including Poirot), one is killed, and the detective has to figure out whodunit. To reveal anymore of the story without spoiling the film would be impossible, so we’ll just leave it at there.
Sporting a moustache so prominent (and distracting) that it probably needed its own on-set trailer, Branagh plays Poirot with theatrical aplomb, dialling up the Belgian detective’s famous eccentricities while giving him an underlying jaded vulnerability that suits the character well in the context of this particular story.
While it’s fun watching Poirot go about his business and putting together the pieces of the puzzle, somehow, the magic of Christie’s murder mystery gets a little lost along the way.
While Murder On The Orient Express is without doubt one of Christie’s most celebrated whodunits, it doesn’t seem to translate very well on-screen.
On page, the mystery unfolds before you in the way Christie wants you to see it, which means there is a lot more she DOESN’T want you to see.
On the big screen, however, Branagh has no such luxury – he has to make sure that the film is visually arresting while to make it as hard as possible for you to guess who the murderer is.
However, some of the clues stick out like sore thumb on screen, and when a key piece of evidence is revealed and expanded upon, it’s not hard for viewers to take a gander at who the murderer is.
This, unfortunately, means that the impact of the final revelation doesn’t quite hit you as hard as it does in the book.
Still, if you’ve never read the novel or seen any of the adaptations, it’s worth watching this just to see the mystery being unravelled.
But if you’re already familiar with the story, you might still want to catch this just to see how the whole thing unfolds on screen, and to observe the indomitable Hercule Poirot in action.
Murder On The Orient Express
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
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