In a year of sequels, threequels and superhero films, there is also the remake. Murder On The Orient Express is adapted from Agatha Christie’s famous novel which has been made in two previous films. For this iteration we get a superstar cast shot in 65mm, is all glamour and glitz with the suspense and mystery get lost in translation.
The film stars (and is directed by) Kenneth Branagh who plays french detective Hercule Poirot donning an extra long grey mustache, meets his buddy Bouc (Tom Bateman) on an assignment in Istanbul, they climb aboard the Orient Express, a luxury train in the 1930’s scattered with first and second class guests. They all meet in the dining car and running through the players here we have the scowling Russian exile Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench) and her maid, Hildegarde (Olivia Colman); Ratchett (Johnny Depp), an American antiques dealer accompanied by his English valet, Masterman (Derek Jacobi), and his alcoholic secretary, MacQueen (Josh Gad); Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Miss Debenham (Daisy Ridley),the Count and Countess Andrenyi (Sergei Polunin and Lucy Boynton), Hardman (Willem Dafoe),Miss Estravados (Penélope Cruz), the car salesman Marquez (Manuel García-Rulfo); and Mrs. Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer). It is an impressive and diverse cast who are astoundingly good actors in their own right and all bring their A game to this film. I do have to mention that Johnny Depp is phenomenal in this film, like amazing. It is so good to see him playing a role that isn’t a pirate or a character that is over the top and a stereotype. Welcome back Mr.Depp!
When one of the guests is murdered, Poirot is implored by Bouc to solve the murder and all of this is helped as an avalanche stops the train giving him a 24-48 hour window to interrogate the guests and find out who did it. With an array of clues that link most of the others to do it, the interrogations and events unfold for Poirot to solve the mystery and the train to get back on the tracks. A few liberties have been taken with the addressing of some racism and sexism that were ignored in the previous versions.
Pfieffer is a phenomenal actress who has had an amazing career. She shines in this movie and does the most with what she is given. Similarly Branagh is charming as Poirot and the film gets off to a great start, but then towards the end Branagh seems to come off the rails a bit and the character is a bit confusing by the end. The rest of the cast are fine, as formentioned Depp shows a step back to acting again. Ridley steals the scene whenever she is on the screen and is great to see her in a role outside of Star Wars.
A lot of my issues with the film comes from the set and production, the original film looked lavish and grand with locations and both the trains and set pieces. This film heavily relies on a CGI train and locations and this is to the extreme detriment of the film. These setup scenes at the start were disappointing and looked like a cheap mess. While the set design team should be happy with the interior of the train looking grand and luxurious in comparison to the cheap facade of the ouside. Similarly the costumes and make up were true to the time period and helped contribute to the luxurious feeling of travelling on the Orient Express.
While the story didn’t always stick to the original and a lot of the suspense moments were rushed and missed by poor editing choices that chopped through some of the character arcs and left it feeling a little empty. This is also evident at the end of the film with the reveal of the killer and the end of Poirot’s character resolve as he walks away. They could have easily added a further 10-15 minutes to further flesh these out and it wouldn’t have taken away from the film.
Overall Murder On The Orient Express will impress millenials and those who have not seen the previous versions, while I would have loved to have my Nan with me reliving memories of my childhood watching the originals on VHS, I fear she may disappointed with the quality of this remake leaving me the question of, did we really need this remake? Honestly…probably not. While it is enjoyable for the cast and some of the set pieces, overall it didn’t deliver and could probably wait for the next iteration of this classic story.
Murder On The Orient Express is in cinemas now
Review by Alaisdair Leith