Compared to the outstanding and beautifully executed 1974 classic original it is based upon, Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” doesn’t hold up. Of course, most remakes when compared to their original hardly, if ever, do, which is why it’s only fair to treat the remake as a film of its own. On that front, this year’s release of “Murder on the Orient Express” performs beautifully.
The film, set in 1934, follows Hercule Poirot, a legendary Belgian private detective (Branagh). Poirot is on vacation aboard the luxurious Orient Express, traveling from Istanbul to Paris. During the journey, one of the passengers in first class is murdered, leaving the nine other passengers as suspects. The train director (Tom Bateman) begs Poirot to take the case, which he begrudgingly does, even though he is on vacation.
What follows is an intriguing interpretation of the classic “whodunit,” keeping the audience engaged until the film’s conclusion. A phenomenal cast including Judi Dench, Leslie Odom Jr., Josh Gad and Willem Dafoe, among many others, does an excellent job of bringing the characters of this mystery to life on the big screen. Aside from Branagh, an actor whose performance in particular stands out is Bateman as Bouc, the comedic dilettante train director who, as Poirot’s close friend, serves as his bumbling de-facto partner as the detective tries to solve the murder.
The performance that stood out the most was Branagh’s, as he demonstrates his talented abilities by directing and starring as the leading role. On top of that, he flawlessly pulls off the character of Poirot, complete with the authentic Belgian accent, quick wit and, of course, a mustache that makes everyone jealous.
As a director, Branagh did an incredible job of representing the mid-1930s. The film gives such a great representation of the elegance of original first-class travel. At the same time, Branagh and the film’s screenwriter, Michael Green, do justice portraying the politics, as well as the racial prejudices of the era, squashing any worries about over-romanticization.
This film, not only thoroughly enjoyable, was not easy to pull off, especially due to recreating the aesthetic of the era, as well as the impressive camera-work, which included a number of brilliantly executed one-shots.
With Thanksgiving break approaching, “Murder on the Orient Express” is a perfect holiday flick to go see with the whole family. Don’t waste your cash on the newest Marvel release. Instead, go see a film that will actually make you think and leave you satisfied and entertained.