Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Olivia Colman
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Hercule Poirot (Branagh) decides it’s time for a holiday, but when he gets on board the Orient Express, he’s soon engaged in trying to find a killer. But any one of the mysterious travelers could have done it. And what’s the connection to an old case of a kidnapped little girl?
Agatha Christie is a perennial favourite for movie adaptations, both on the small and the big screen, and in fact this mystery, Murder On The Orient Express, has been adapted about 5 times, notable in 1974 and in the TV series Hercule Poirot starring David Suchet as the titular mustachioed detective. The question should perhaps be asked, do we need another version?
In it’s favour, Hercule Poirot is a wonderful character, amusing in his perfectionism, he’s outwardly brusque and yet has a warm, kind heart, and a keen eye for detail. Those who love Christie and especially this character are never going to object to another film about him, and those yet to meet him are likely to be charmed by him.
This film also has an incredibly long list of big stars in it’s credits, each of whom get a good amount of screen time, so they’re defined characters. Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, and several more all make strong appearances and all have their own secrets.
And yet… while Kenneth Branagh is a good director and makes a lovely looking Poirot, he’s a bit over the top. Not in the way he looks, but in his big speeches, hos overly cheesey displays. He’s unrestrained and feels a bit cartoonish. There’s something about Poirot that does require humour, he is often unconsciously funny. But he’s a man who takes himself serisously and who we can take seriously. But not here.
The sets and landscapes are incredibly lavish in this film, which fits with the times and is a pleasure to look at, but the green screen give the film a less than real feeling. It adds to the feeling that this film is a kind of cartoon, rather than a crime. Whilst all the performances are really solid, and everyone appears to be enjoying themselves in their roles, there are often moments of jarring over emotional displays and sentimentality and speeches, which just don’t make for an interesting mystery.
There’s also the problematic ending, which feels quite silly and less than satisfying. I’m not going to tell you who did it, but by the time you find out, you’ll be rolling your eyes at the number of coincidences and how unrealistic it all is. And then Poirot will make one more cheesey and dramatic speech. You’ve been warned.
On the whole, it’s not a bad film. It’s quite pretty and it’s fun to see stars that you love dressed in period clothes. It’s just not a functional whodunnit and whilst it’s overstuffed with dramatics, it lacks a sense of danger and, well, mystery. It’s all rather pointless and OTT. But for those of you who know the Agatha Christie material, you might get a kick out of it, just the same.
See It If: you’re a Agatha Christie or Branagh fan, or love films set in the 1920’s. It’s mystery light and cheese heavy, but has it’s charms all the same.