Murder on the Orient Express is a film that does what it says on the tin: it is about a murder on a train. However, there is much more to this mystery than meets the eye. Twentieth Century Fox certainly didn’t scrimp on the budget, with a star studded cast including the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz and Michelle Pfeiffer. As a lover of all things Agatha Christie, I had high expectations for this highly anticipated and long awaited film, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
The plot centres on a group of unrelated passengers, including the world-renowned Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who board the Orient Express, a luxury train travelling from Istanbul to London. After an avalanche brings a stand-still to the journey a dodgy antiques salesman, named Mr Ratchett (played by Johnny Depp), is murdered in his cabin on the train.
It falls to the highly competent Poirot to investigate the murder by piecing together several unusual clues, such as a series of threatening anonymous messages to Rachett and a scarlet dressing robe. He must discover whether one of the passengers is guilty, or whether an imposter managed to get onto to the train to carry out the violent murder.
“The film gets off to a bit of a slow start”
As can be expected of a murder mystery, the film is full of twists and turns, with Poirot faced with the task of untangling a complex web of lies. There is a typical whodunit set up, with many of the characters appearing shifty and suspicious. Despite this highly dramatic mood, the film gets off to a bit of a slow start and the first half an hour or so appears completely irrelevant to the plot. It starts in Jerusalem, with Poirot solving the theft of a precious religious monument. Travelling to Istanbul he is reunited with old friend, Bouc, who secures him a place on the train.
“Manages to address wider issues about human nature, justice and grief”
The film was much more comical than I predicted, particularly in the first half. The French phrases and mannerisms add a bit of light relief, even if they were very clichéd and stereotypical. Having said this, Murder on the Orient Express also manages to address wider issues about human nature, justice and grief. This is definitely one which will make you both laugh and cry. For me, Kenneth Branagh steals the show and the rest of the famous cast are merely accessories to draw in the audience. Not only does he play the lead role of Poirot, he is also director and producer of this revival. For a big budget film, the cinematography is very impressive, with a lavish representation of upper class 1930s Europe.
As for the ending, I found it to be a satisfying one that I probably never would have guessed. Although there are minor differences, this production stays fairly faithful to the original plot of Christie’s book. Overall the film was highly entertaining, with the right balance between suspense and comedy. I would recommend this film for an indulgent cinematic experience that constantly keeps you guessing.
8/10 – excellent, highly enjoyable
Image courtesy of Fox Movies.
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