Reboot on the right track
Murder on the Orient Express (12A) ●●●●●
For the second time on the big screen and following on from three television adaptations – including, rather bizarrely, a Japanese version – one of Agatha Christie’s most beloved novels is brought to life.
Steering the train on this occasion is Kenneth Branagh, with the Belfast-born director also grooming a hefty, hirsute moustache to play famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.
The familiar story, adapted from Christie’s work by Blade Runner 2049 screenplay writer Michael Green, sees Poirot tested like never before as he has to solve a puzzling murder on the stranded titular train amid 13 suspicious strangers before the killer strikes again.
One may wonder what the point is in sending the Express thundering down the tracks once again, but within this remake’s first few moments it’s easy to see why; advances in filmmaking and a $55 million budget have allowed Branagh to frame Christie’s classic in a never-before-seen sumptuous style.
The Brit uses 65mm cameras, making Express one of very few movies to do so in recent decades, and creates lavish, picturesque landscapes that are a treat for the eyes.
Sunsets and, particularly, snowfall evoke memories of the Hogwarts Express’ magical journeys in the Harry Potter series and the expensive-looking props and sets are so precise they’d win even the demanding Poirot’s approval.
Branagh, perhaps recognising how verbal interplay dominates the story, utilises various different shots to add some diversity; peering down from overhead, close-ups to emphasise the importance of facial expressions being used to evoke trust and possible deception and terrific tracking shots of the full cast on the train.
And the former Thor director is every bit as impressive in front of the camera. Defying fears that no-one bar David Suchet can do Poirot justice, Branagh is much more than a gimmick moustache; the detective’s attention to detail, humorous, brave jabs at others and touching reflective moments are a joy to behold.
You’ll rarely find such an expansive, bigname cast as this outside of an Avengers movie and Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad and Derek Jacobi impress.
No-one quite shines like Branagh, however, and others, like Penélope Cruz and Olivia Colman, get lost in the shuffle, while Daisy Ridley is so like Keira Knightley she could pass for a clone.
As fun as it is to see Poirot dissect suspects, the faceto-face interrogation gets a bit repetitive and while there are some changes to the story, this will be a tale very familiar to many.
Branagh and his camera are the stars of this luxurious, absorbing reboot worthy of its source material.
More Poirot is hinted at come the climax, and I, for one, would be delighted to see Branagh take on another case.
I moustache you a questionKenneth Branagh’s Poirot