The perfect crime is pulled off in style
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (12A, 114 mins)
THE little grey cells of moustachioed sleuth Hercule Poirot are rigorously tested in Kenneth Branagh’s handsome reimagining of Agatha Christie’s classic snowbound murder mystery.
Lovingly shot on 65mm celluloid to capture the splendour of the opulent production design, this beautifully tailored adaptation welcomes a first-class passenger list of Oscar-winners and nominees from both sides of the Atlantic.
Screenwriter Michael Green couples himself to Christie’s plot, which is precision-engineered to achieve a full head of steam before a satisfying final twist.
A completely new suspect is introduced, along with a character from a different Christie case, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, while the snowdrift has been amplified, courtesy of digital effects, to an avalanche that strikes the titular train.
Poirot (Branagh) is on holiday in Turkey when he is summoned back to London. Good friend Bouc (Tom Bateman), director of business on the Orient Express, secures him a cabin next to slippery gangster Samuel Ratchett (Johnny Depp), who attempts to hire the wily Belgian as a bodyguard.
Poirot rejects the offer and as the train chugs through the Dinaric Alps, a murderer strikes.
Suspects include Ratchett’s secretary Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad), governess Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley), former soldier Dr Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr), attention-famished widow Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), Princess Natalia Dragomiroff (Dame Judi Dench) and her maid Hildegarde Schmidt (Olivia Colman), and missionary Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz).
Murder On The Orient Express harks back to a bygone era of lavish period filmmaking.
Branagh shoots inside a movable locomotive and four carriages, built from scratch to allow his camera to glide in seemingly impossible directions.
The film is elegantly bookmarked by a luxurious tracking shot along the platform in Istanbul, which follows the Belgian detective as he wanders through the train, and a five-minute Steadicam shot inside the carriages as a morally conflicted Poirot prepares to disembark.
Branagh sports impressive facial hair and teases out his protagonist’s inner turmoil, while his co-stars perfect inscrutable glares and furrowed brows as they pull the wool over our eyes.
Murder on the Orient Express boasts an all-star cast