Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley
Kenneth Branagh has assembled one impressive cast in what is a very old-fashioned murder mystery picture, but that’s by no means a criticism. Branagh stars as Agatha Christie’s eccentric French… sorry… I mean Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and shows that you can still make this sort of film relevant in the 21st century. It’s like a cosy hug of a movie which keeps you guessing until the very end (if you’re not already familiar with the original story that is).
Murder On The Orient Express starts off with Hercule Poirot impressively solving a mystery in Jerusalem after which he is looking forward to a well-deserved holiday. Yet, unfortunately, he is called to solve yet another case, this time in London leading him to secure a berth in the luxurious Orient Express. Poirot certainly knows how to travel in style. However, all doesn’t go quite as planned when during this supposedly relaxing journey the world’s most famous detective finds himself wrapped up in yet another mystery, this time involving a whole host of suspicious characters played by some of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors. With limited resources and time, Poirot has to find out who is behind this perplexing murder.
My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world.
That’s about as much as I’m willing to divulge on the film’s plot because I feel like the less you know about it the better. This is actually simultaneously the film’s strong and weak point. Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express is a brilliantly conceived murder story which is why it’s so famous. It’s arguably her very best work and Poirot is her best creation. My enjoyment of the film was marred somewhat by the fact that I already knew how it was going to end, but it’s a testament to both Branagh’s direction and performance that I still enjoyed the film immensely.
As I said previously, this is a very old-fashioned movie. They really don’t make movies like this one anymore, but Branagh has recaptured the magic of bringing a stellar cast together to play out a gripping murder mystery, or as other people like to call them ‘whodunnits’. I can’t actually remember the last film to do it. Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley and of course, Branagh himself all in one movie. Who would have thought it? it’s safe to say that every actor is a delight to watch on-screen.
I’m sleeping here where everyone can see me. And I can see everyone.
That said, it is a bit difficult to manage all those big names in one movie and give them equal screen time. Naturally, some characters get less development, which is sadly the case with Dench’s Princess Dragomiroff. On the other hand, some actors really do shine, notably, Johnny Depp as the rather deplorable Samuel Ratchett. This is easily the actor’s best performance in years.
But Murder On The Orient Express’s success or failure rests on the shoulders of one person, or more precisely, one man: Kenneth Branagh. Is his Hercule Poirot as good as the many that have preceded him? I’m so happy to report that Branagh is brilliant. His moustache is resplendent and delightfully over-the-top. It’s arguably the best moustache ever seen on-screen, and he just oozes charisma. This is Poirot for the 21st century. He is probably a bit too action heavy for my liking, but apart from that he really lights up the screen and he’s clearing having fun with the role. There’s something about Branagh’s piercing blue eyes that are just so captivating. I could watch his face for hours. OK, my Branagh lovefest is over. I promise.
I see evil on this train.
As far as I’m concerned, Murder On The Orient Express offers a genuinely good time at the cinema. I love the fact that 21st Century Fox decided to greenlight this film because it was a bit of a risk. Studios don’t make these types of movies anymore, yet this proves, to me at least, that they really should because there’s something very special about getting good actors to do this sort of material together. Added to this a wonderful director, some sublime photography, Kenneth Branagh’s dreamy blue eyes, moustache and delightfully panto French (sorry, Belgian) accent, it helps to make Murder On The Orient Express just a lot of fun. I do hope to see more from Branagh’s Poirot in the future – there is a little reference to another one of his famous cases near the end of the movie – however, it’ll all depend on how well it does at the box office.
You may also like to read some of our other reviews such as our verdicts on Call Me By Your Name, Stranger Things Season 2, Thor: Ragnarok, The Death of Stalin, The Mountain In Between Us and much, much more.