Based on an Agatha Christi tale of murder and mystery, “Murder on the Orient Express” serves as proof positive of the sheer brilliance of director, producer, and star Kenneth Branagh. Don’t miss this film; it will surely be on the charts come award season.
And if you’re someone who’d just as soon wait for the film to stream as you recline in your easy chair, take action now, and see it in the theater. This film deserves the big screen.
To begin at the very beginning, the opening moments of the film demonstrate Branagh’s ability to bring a special brand of creativity. With the intent to establish back-story information about Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), one of the film’s key figures, panoramic shots highlight wide expanses of exotic places before the lavish Orient Express ever pulls away from the station.
The exceptional camera work creates scenic moment after moment with breath-taking effects and an ever-suspenseful, complicated tone of luxury, bleakness, extravagance, and somber fragility, all carefully balanced and played. See this film for the interior shots of the world’s most wonderful passenger train; see it for the landscapes; see it for the cast; see it for the mystery.
Master detective Poirot will solve a crime at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem before he boards the train for a much-needed holiday. Other passengers come into focus more slowly as one-by-one, each arrives at the station and settles in to a private compartment or the dining car. Each member of the group of thirteen will inadvertently display clues about who they are and what they do.
The ensemble cast consists of extremely talented heavy hitters who know how to balance their sizeable talents in perfectly understated ways. Along with Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Judi Dench may be the biggest names among the group, but they orchestrate their roles with such harmony that even lesser stars still have their moment to shine. Playing the waif-like Countess Elena Andrenyi, Lucy Boynton holds her own when confronted by the inimitable Branagh in a scene where Poirot grills her delicate character. As far casting, everything works.
As the train steams through the bleak winter landscape, someone aboard commits a murder. Suddenly everyone is a suspect, and everyone is in danger. As the greatest detective on earth, Poirot immediately takes the responsibility to solve the crime. Murder is always a matter of good verses evil, and Poirot’s desire to create balance in the messiest of situations drives him to investigate with precision and skill.
He will leave nothing to chance to set the world right, if indeed, it can be.
Rated Pg-13 for violence and thematic elements.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews since 1999.