Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
The latest remake of this quintessential Agatha Christie mystery novel contains enough impressive cast members, lavish costumes, and breathtaking scenery to become another acclaimed classic film.
The film is directed by Kenneth Branagh (“Dunkirk,” “Thor,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Horrors”), who also stars in the lead role as world famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Set in 1932 Europe, it is as picturesque and luxurious as the famous train itself was supposed to have been.
Branagh plays the well-known Poirot as the earnest, upright, eccentric charmer from several Agatha Christie novels. Although the time spent focused on him comes at the expense of developing the other numerous characters central to the plot in this complicated murder mystery.
As gorgeous as the views are from the famously opulent train moving west across Europe from Istanbul towards Calais, once the murder promised in the movie’s title happens, the film gets bogged down in Poirot’s obsession with minute details, amidst fears the murderer may strike again.
The impressive cast includes 16 other characters central to the labyrinthine plot. Willem Dafoe (“The Great Wall,” “John Wick,” “Platoon”) plays the character Gerard Hardman, an Austrian scientist. Johnny Depp (“Pirates of the Caribbean,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Transcendance”) plays Ratchett, a rakishly dangerous man who sells fake artifacts to mobsters, then begins receiving anonymous threatening notes. Leslie Odom Jr. (“Red Tails,” “The Good Wife”) plays Dr Arbuthnot, a British doctor rushing back to London from Jerusalem.
None of the characters are quite who they seem to be and as the movie progresses, we see flashes of recognition hinting that some of them may already know each other but are hiding this familiarity.
Dame Judi Dench (“Victoria and Abdul,” “Philomena,” “Skyfall”) plays the part of the lonely aging Princess Dragomiroff, Penelope Cruz (“The Counselor,” “Nine,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) is the annoyingly religious Pilar Estavardos, and Michelle Pfeiffer (“The Wizard of Lies,” “Stardust,” “Scarface”) acts the part of American widow Mrs. Hubbard, apparently returning home after fruitlessly hunting for husband No. 3 in Europe.
The film definitely keeps your interest throughout; it is difficult not to wonder what is coming next as Poirot examines and discards each individuals alibi. As the movie nears the end we realize many of these characters in fact are not at all who they seem to be, a mounting complication that gets rushed through towards the end.
Amid the beautiful period costumes and historic train car sets, the flashes of stunning mountain scenery and unforgettable architecture, Poirot suddenly arrives at his conclusion as the train is restored to the track and once again speeds along on its way.
The film is worth seeing for the opulent surroundings and costumes of a long-gone era alone, the performances of the entire cast are also excellent. But I would have liked to see a little less about Poirot, and more attention to explaining the complicated relationship between the characters. “Murder On the Orient Express” opened on 11 Nov.