Anthony's Film Review
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Agatha Christie's classic murder mystery novel comes to life with intriguing performances...
If you look at the history of mystery fiction, you will no doubt come across notable authors who pioneered and advanced the genre. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, comes to mind. You can also throw in writers like Edgar Allan Poe, known for mystery short stories such as The Purloined Letter, and even Wilkie Collins, who wrote the early mystery story The Woman in White. But no die-hard mystery enthusiast should overlook the author who is considered by many to be the queen of mystery: Agatha Christie. One of her most notable mystery novels is Murder on the Orient Express, which has been adapted into a few films, including one in 2017.
Because there is a large cast of characters (roughly twelve, in case you're wondering), I'm not going to describe the names and unique characteristics of most of the characters in this movie. Plus, it may be a bit more fun for the audience to discover the characters for themselves. I'm just going to mention some of the major supporting stars in this movie: Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Lucy Boynton, Leslie Odom Jr., Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Olivia Colman. Overall, this is an interesting all-star cast to see on screen.
As for the principal character, he is a detective named Hercule Poirot. This is a character who, like other great fictional sleuths, possesses acumen and intuition that exceed those of the average person, and is just the kind of person needed to solve the central mystery here. He is portrayed by Kenneth Branagh, a veteran British actor who excels even as a character of a different nationality. Once you see him light up the screen, you'll want to see more of this actor and his performance.
It is worth noting that this is a film with a somewhat lengthy setup. The first 20 to 30 minutes are dedicated to introducing the characters. First, we see Poirot brilliantly solving a case in Jerusalem. Then at several stops for the Orient Express train, the supporting characters get on the train. After that, the train moves along for a while, before an avalanche interrupts the journey. And soon, one character is found murdered.
Basically, you have to be fairly patient with this movie. Not just with the setup, but also with Poirot's investigation going forward. The bulk of the film is a series of interviews between Poirot and the various suspects, plus other scenes of dialogue and examination of clues. There are bits of action as well, but they are brief and ultimately not the focus. The actors and actresses in these scenes deliver performances that are pretty good. Still, Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot is the one who steals the show.
And this is the perfect time to talk about the best part of Murder on the Orient Express: the climax. Once Poirot has all the information he can gather, he delivers the stunning and unexpected revelation about who committed the murder. It is the kind of surprise that many might not see coming. I was certainly surprised by it. On top of that, Branagh's performance peaks here, as we see Poirot get quite emotional, unlike the all-intellectual detective we see up until this point. If there's one thing worth waiting for in this movie, it's this well-done finale.
Given the pacing of the movie, Murder on the Orient Express mostly felt like a 7 on my 1-to-10 scale. But I am willing to bump it up to an 8, mainly because of the satisfying ending. Of course, it's not just that. I also think Kenneth Branagh is wonderful as Hercule Poirot, as is the rest of the cast. And then there is the fact that the story is an intriguing murder mystery, one that is considered a notable work in the genre. Anyone who loves a good whodunit will surely enjoy this adaptation of an Agatha Christie classic.
For more information about Murder on the Orient Express, visit the Internet Movie Database.