Murder on the Orient Express
Directed by Kenneth Brannagh
Written by Michael Green, based on the novel by Agatha Christie
Starring Kenneth Brannagh, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz
Review by Jordan
“My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world”
The term ‘crowd pleaser’ carries mixed connotations. Is it a compliment or a criticism? A neutral term or one wished to be avoided? Whatever its perception, its undoubted that veteran filmmaker/actor Kenneth Brannagh’s attempt at adapting perhaps Agatha Christie’s most renowned work bears this title.
The breezy introduction to a famous, peculiar detective, as he examines the perfection of a boiled egg and curiously solves a religiously charged crime while battling with the concept of dung covering the soles of his shoes, showcases that although we’re to be exposed to a story revolving around death, its bound to be removed from the macabre. The detective, of course, is Hercule Poirot: a man whose crime solving prowess is matched only by the exemplary moustache adorning his inquisitive face.
Longing for a much-deserved and oft mentioned holiday, Poirot boards the luxurious passenger train more interested in longingly gazing at his photo of an old love and relishing the solace of his own company than interrogating, investigating and ingeniously pulling solutions and resolutions from unexpected places. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t have picked a worse mode of transportation.
Though certainly a classic of its literary type, the elongated denouement of Murder on the Orient Express as portrayed by Brannagh carries a lesser level of suspense or intrigue than a production of this scale might promise. After the required death, character motivations and exploratory quirks are given little time and space to unfold, with a plethora of famous faces appearing and disappearing from the screen without having significant impact. Its to his credit that Depp, with his snarling yet cowardly demeanour leaves the most lasting impression, with others, including luminaries such as Michelle Pfeiffer and Penélope Cruz good, without being fantastic.
The most questionable choices in this iteration of Christie’s classic are reserved for the ending. Though not too dissimilar to what the initiated will expect, there are small narrative decisions made that contradict established character ideals and morals, and as a result break the immersion at the exact wrong time. In a process-of-elimination story (with a few twists and turns), more ambiguity is always welcome.
Fuelled by an engaging lead performance and a smattering of charms from cinema past, Murder on the Orient Express is revealed shallower than it ought to be and tailored to a literal mindset, but nonetheless offers a grounded journey in a blockbuster age.
3 shared desserts out of 5