Running Time: 1 Hour 54 Minutes
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Brannagh is, in my opinion, one of the ultimate greats. A modern day Laurence Oliver, who would be better to play the legendary Hercules Poriot? Brannagh takes it one step further than just taking on the challenge of portraying one of literatures most famous characters. Directing and starring in Murder On The Orient Express, he puts himself in the precarious position the likes of Mel Gibson have tried, and not always managed to fufill both roles to their potentials. Brannagh however, is not a risk- like always, he tries and succeeds.
Murder on The Orient Express is such a well-known story but it has surprisingly not been over-done. I know a lot of people including myself were very excited to see it released with a fresh perspective. The film establishes Poirot’s unique character and exceptional talent as a detective immediately. The opening scene shows the detective measuring his breakfast of boiled eggs before a nervous cook, and rejects them when they are not exactly even. He does not reject the eggs nastily- he smiles and lets the young boy who fetched the eggs have them instead. Suddenly Poirot takes centre stage, watched by rioting crowds as he reveals who has stolen the sacred town relic- the Priest, the Rabbi or the Iman. He reveals the true thief and the crowds are astonished by his skill.
After this exploit, we follow Poroit on his journey home- upon which he begrudgingly agrees to another case- one which he must take the Orient Express to get to.
Here begins the real story. As Poirot boards the train we begin to meet our wide cast of characters- the young couple with something to hide, the Count and Countess, The Queen and her Maidservant, an Art Dealer and his entourage, and many more colourful personalities. And then- a murder!
On board the Orient Express, Poirot embarks on his most difficult case yet. Everyone appears to be a stranger, yet everyone has a motive. Clues are in abundance but just don’t make sense or fit together- and the conclusion of the film sees Poirot questioning even his own morals, as the truth is finally revealed.
Murder On The Orient Express is a beautiful film. I heard once in Film School that great cinematography is when you can stop the film at any moment and the shot looks like it could be a painting. This is true of this film. Sweeping landscapes and stunning colours contrast and compliment each other constantly throughout this film, creating the mysterious atmosphere needed for the story.
However, the real highlight of the film is the cast. Every single member is a star in their own right- Murder On The Orient Express boats a line up of Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Coleman, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Penélope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench and many more.
Amongst such an impressive cast it is difficult to pick a shining light, but Michelle Pfeiffer plays a strong antagonist to Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot, and is impossible to neglect. Every line is dramatic but believable, she is unabashed and almost steals like spotlight from Brannagh himself.
Derek Jacobi and and Olivia Coleman are amongst Britains leading actors, and give solid performances, albeit are underused. Daisy Ridley also is unrecognisable from Star Wars, and proves herself as following in their footsteps.
The only problem I had with Murder On The Orient Express is the ending. It is definitely not the obvious- I certainly didn’t guess it- but I’m not sure it was the most believable either. (And there is one black and white scene that is just ludicrous.)
Obviously there are no spoilers here- so I’ll leave you to make your own mind up on this one…