Murder on the Orient Express has been adapted several times before. It’s perhaps most famous for the 1974 adaptation starring Albert Finney, but the source material is one of Poirot’s bestselling investigations. Think Cluedo, but on a train. Poirot, played here by director Sir Kenneth Branagh, is travelling cross country on the titular Orient Express when, half way through the journey, the trip comes to an abrupt halt. The passengers are snowed in, forced to wait it out for three days with no option but to remain on-board, and worst of all, overnight a passenger has mysteriously been murdered. Thankfully for them, Detective Poirot is on the case.
While it may star far too many a-list celebrities to list in a review, featuring the likes of Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer and so many others, the real star of the film is the cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos. The frequent Branagh collaborator utilizes every inch of the frame to his advantage. Not a shot went by that didn’t look or feel stunning. It glimmers with elegance, shining brighter and more beautifully than Branagh’s moustache. From the production design to costuming to overall aesthetic, this movie is visual ecstasy. Truly a trip I was sad to depart from.
Screenwriter Michael Green is having one hell of a year. Between this and co-writing Blade Runner 2049, Logan and Alien: Covenant, Green is working out quite the résumé, certainly redeeming himself from 2011’s Green Lantern (which I never found to be that awful). The actors give it their all, each giving somewhat exaggerated performances, but exaggerated to the point where everything comes together nicely. They play caricatures and stereotypes, from the gangster to the butler to the widow and beyond, but everyone here is having a ball. Not everyone gets a lot of screen time, but you certainly get a sense of what they’re all about, even if I did forget that two of the characters were actually on the train until two thirds of the way through.
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