Murder on the Orient Express
- Allan Hunter
- 2 November 2017
Agatha Christie's most famous whodunit gets a first-class, star-studded retelling
Does your heart sink at the prospect of yet another version of Murder on the Orient Express? The sneaky, snowbound whodunit may contain one of Agatha Christie's most ingenious plots but it has seen sterling service down the years, especially in Sidney Lumet's classy, Oscar-winning production of 1974. Can anyone be unfamiliar with how it all ends?
Against the odds, actor-director Kenneth Branagh manages to silence any reservations with a stylish, first-class retelling that he attacks with gusto. The fluid camerawork swoops and dives, the pace is bracing, the costume and production design are lavish. There is wit but nothing approaching camp in a film that takes the material seriously and executes it with conviction. Branagh even succeeds in finding the poignancy in multiple individuals touched by the consequences of one lost life. He emphasises emotions that others rarely find in Christie's work.
Sporting the most outrageous handlebar moustache and an accent borrowed from First Dates maître d' Fred, Branagh also seems to be having a fine old time as Hercule Poirot. His take on ze world's greatest detective is arrogant, endlessly pernickety and can swing a fist, as well as exercise those infallible little grey cells.
A murder in the dead of night, a carriage of suspects trapped in an avalanche, red herrings and suspiciously abundant clues all set the cells working overtime. Poirot is obliged to confront an all-star cast that ranges from a standout Michelle Pfeiffer as a glamorous, man-hungry widow, to Penélope Cruz's demure missionary, Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr as dashing British doctor Arbuthnot and a scar-faced Johnny Depp's vulgar gangster. It's well-executed retro fun that ends with the promise that this may not be the last the world will see of Branagh's dapper, melancholy sleuth.
General release from Fri 3 Nov.