Agatha Christie has written some of the best hands down murder mystery in literary history. I like to think of Murder on the Orient Express as the staple for any aspiring murder mystery writer to be inspired by. The characters, the isolation, the massive reveal all these little elements amount to a tale that like any good murder is planned to the most minuscule of detail. Kenneth Branagh is one of my favourite British actors and finding out that he would grace the mind and moustache of Hercule Poirot got me more than excited to see what he could bring to the famous detective.
I guess we start by using the little grey cells to quickly discover that while the foundations of having the best written murder mystery is literature is a bonus, however when we take the story out of the picture and witness the film behind it, Murder on the Orient Express is slightly bland in that department.
The main attraction of Kenneth Branagh as Poirot doesn’t fail to deliver as this rendition of Poirot is enjoyable to witness. It did take time to settle into what type of performance we the audience would receive but once settled, Branagh nail the intensity that is required in moments of tension. It is because of this clear performance of the character we can understand that this case is very testing to Poirot, we are given moments where we get the know the importance of justice but the more important than that, balance. The story reflects everything that goes against Poirot’s way of deduction.
Kenneth Branagh is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talent attached. The cast list is magnificent and ripe with a mix of old and new talent. With such an impressive array of talent it makes for a very strong selling point for the film, the film can reach the intrigue of a wide range of age groups, from the very new Daisy Ridley to more seasoned actors like Judi Dench. However, having a large cast list does come with a price in the story. there is the worry of characters to being given enough screen time to let the audience know what said characters part is in all of this, luckily Murder on the Orient Express handles its massive amount of characters well enough to at least let the audience know what they are like.
Normally is a good thing to know the source material of the film as it can make you appreciate more what is being shown on the silver screen, however I strongly urge that you stay away from the novel if you can. I only say this because know knowing what happens in an adapted murder mystery eliminates any boredom created by knowing who did the crime.
I can’t stress enough how lucky this film is to have the most infamous murder mystery behind it, so knowing that I was in for a ride with the story, I was hoping for the filmmaking behind to display equal calibre, yen it appeared not to be. There is an array of odd cinematography choices, the strangest of which is being many overhead angles which is also accompanied by long takes. This type of shot ruins the claustrophobic feeling of the Orient Express and how the murder isolates the passengers from each other.
I only found one part of the film that managed to somewhat tick me off which was that when they discover the body they don’t show it instantly. Now for anyone well-known in horror, you’ll know that if we never see someone killed off they’re presumed to be still alive. Unfortunately, this element for me spans all genres and not seeing the body is just wrong. It is later revealed, but for that previous window of time, how is the audience meant to believe that the character is dead, we need visual confirmation.
Also, I feel the Orient Express should have been given a bigger introduction rather than in passing mention. Being one of the more famous trains across all media, one would assume that the reveal would have been grander as the train can be considered a character itself. I thought this would be the case after hearing “I see evil on this train” in the promotion of the film, but no.
Other little pieces of the film that were odd was when at the films introduction fast tempo music is used to create an illusion that something big is happening, where in reality, very little is happening on-screen. As well as this, it is quite easy to tell that the moustache of Poirot is clearly a prosthetic, there was very little movement of individual hairs that could convince me otherwise.
Murder on the Orient Express excels at creating a compelling mystery to those unaware of what awaits them and most surprisingly, I found it very comfortable to watch. I’m sure many of you have sat through a film readjusting your posture in the seat, maybe even an itch that cannot be ignored, yet this film is very settling and is rewarding to the audience. I just wish that more attention could have been focused on the presentation as this is equally important to a viewer’s enjoyment.
Final Result: 5/10 – Average
Have you seen Murder on the Orient Express? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below
Next Time: Only the Brave