I didn’t try to watch the earlier made versions of Murder on the Orient Express as it was a suspense thriller and I wanted to experience the thrill. So the first reaction I had, watching the movie version of this Agatha Christie story was that the treatment here is a bit outdated. Some sort of freshness had to be there when you are trying to explore a theme again and having seen a few films that falls in the same category, this movie by Kenneth Branagh wasn’t giving me that excitement one would expect in a suspense thriller which claims to have the world’s best detective.
So Hercule Poirot is a world famous detective who has this ability to solve cases within a very limited time. After solving one particular case he is on his way back to London and his friend who owns the Orient Express offers him a free ride with all its luxuries. Poirot who was in the mood of taking a vacation gets into an unprecedented situation where a passenger in that train gets murdered and because of his reputation, his friend requests him to solve the case. How he does that is what Murder on the Orient Express discussing.
When a genre follows a repeated structure in storytelling, it faces that burn out scenario and I believe over the years this detective suspense films have evolved in terms of narrative styling and visual story telling. Kenneth Branagh’s take on Murder on the Orient Express feels like a tribute to old school film making. The structure of the screenplay here is very basic. We get to see an introduction scene of our central protagonist when he solves a crucial case. And when the plot shifts to the train, it is the most obvious style of putting everyone under the scanner. And to be honest I felt like the world’s best detective was giving up very easily.
Kenneth Branagh isn’t trying to make this film a gripping tale. It feels like he is more interested in the moral ambiguity part of the story. But the problem is that he is doing a story with a theme that has been used several times and it is really hard to find freshness in it. What excite you are the characteristics of the detective and the emotional texture of the conflict. When the film reveals a connecting factor between these strangers, the presentation here lacked conviction. In the long wide shots, the visual effects aided backdrop look lush and blended, but when it comes to close ones, you can really sense that artificiality.
Kenneth Branagh himself plays the role of Hercule Poirot in the film and with that Belgian accent and freak mustache he looks fine for the character. Branagh has managed to bring in many talented actors to the film including names like Judy Dench, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Star Wars girl Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer and many more and the film isn’t really giving them much space and the focus is pretty much on Branagh.
Murder on the Orient Express isn’t particularly fresh. The basic curiosity and the emotional ambiguity which pushes it slightly further from being just a whodunit thriller make it a passable film.
The basic curiosity and the emotional ambiguity which pushes it slightly further from being just a whodunit thriller make Murder on the Orient Express a passable film.