Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Out Now On-Demand

Everyone is a suspect.

Sir Kenneth Branagh adapts Agatha Christie's 1934 mystery novel with an all-star cast including Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz, Daisy Ridley and Dame Judi Dench. Story follows renowned Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) as he investigates the murder of a wealthy American traveling on the Orient Express, the world's most luxurious train.

Christie's enduring story has been adapted to the big screen before, with Sidney Lumet's 1974 Oscar-winner starring Albert Finney, Sean Connery, Laren Bacall, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave and Ingrid Bergman.

In an attempt to do what Guy Ritchie did for Sherlock Holmes in 2010, respected cinema thespian and filmmaker Kenneth Branagh dips Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery novel into a big-budget paint-bucket. It certainly looks pretty, spouting lavish costuming alongside impeccable set design, and Haris Zambarloukos – Branagh’s regular cinematographer – aids the production with a wealth of creative camera choices. However, whether it’s due to the editing or the writing, this adaptation feels like it ripped pages out of the novel to make it run under two hours.

You can’t fault the cast. From actual royalty Dame Judi Dench to television workhorse Leslie Odom Jr, all the players in the suspect roles portray their parts with distinction but without the need to shine above the rest. Well, except for Michelle Pfeiffer, but that’s in keeping with her character. Even Josh Gad does proper acting in this.

They all know who the two stars of this picture are: Kenneth Branagh and his beautiful moustache. As Hercule Poirot – “probably the world’s greatest detective” – he is as regal and commanding as he usually is. A simple exchange feels colossal from Branagh’s mouth and thank his godly facial fuzz for that because there’s a LOT of blunt exposition Poirot dishes out. We also see a lighter, fluffier side to Branagh with some politely mannered comedy and scenes of Poirot’s earnest euphoria over pastries. It’s as if he saw Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel and was reminded that acting can be fun.

There’s certainly enough to enjoy, but Murder on the Orient Express can’t capture the two things that make a whodunit compelling – clue-gathering and finger-pointing. While the film sets up its characters and situation well enough, it doesn’t leave time for evidence to connect or for suspects to actually be suspicious. You’re left with Poirot telling you the answer to an equation you were never fully given, so while the conclusion might be clever, it severely lacks an “A-ha!”

TimeOut (London)

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If it's all a little too crowded with characters, Branagh's pacy direction keeps the story zipping along.

The Guardian (UK)

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This film never gets up a head of steam.

Empire (UK)

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Branagh adheres to Christie's ideal with his performance but remains in the shadow of TV's David Suchet.

Hollywood Reporter

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Given the confined nature of the material as well as its period-specific aspects, this is a yarn that does not exactly invite radical reinterpretation. As such, its appeal is confined to the traditional niceties of being a clever tale well told.

Variety (USA)

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Kenneth Branagh's take on Agatha Christie's eccentric detective is one for the age.

Total Film (UK)

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Shooting in 65mm, Branagh delivers all of the eye-saucering exteriors you'd expect, as mountaintops soar, sunlight glints at the end of tunnels and stations snuggle under a duvet of blue snow.

Little White Lies

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An old-fashioned murder mystery repackaged from the blockbuster set. Works despite itself.

Newsroom.co.nz (Darren Bevan)

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Unfortunately, it's almost as if this Orient Express has been slightly derailed by the narrative it leaves on the line as it departs the cinematic platform.

NZ Herald (Toby Woollaston)

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Branagh delivers a thrilling ride through the mountainous snowscapes, making this first-class ticket as opulent as it is chilling.

Stuff.co.nz (Sarah Watt)

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Seemingly reimagined Poirot as someone who chuckles through Charles Dickens' novels and has a love interest. What on earth would Christie say?

Keeping Up with NZ

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A rather smooth watch that presents an enjoyable ride through an Agatha Christie classic that is well deserving of this big screen revamp.

The Listener NZ (James Robins)

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Branagh’s attempt at a Christie is certainly handsome and not without a few sly grins, but there’s something frustratingly stuffy and pedestrian about it...
PercyM

PercyM

user


Okay.

It's visually pleasing and well-performed, with rather dull entertainment.


Too twee with weak plot.

I love a period movie esp with a murder but the tweeness starts almost immediately and it loses any semblance of a solid story with it. Even the characters arent well roundeed and Kenneth Branagh has a tendency to meander and draw things out which also happens. Good actors couldnt save this from itself.


A thoughtful and faithful take on a classic who-done-it?

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS is an ambitious film, with nothing but good intentions. It takes time with its characters, allowing for all of them to be fleshed out. This enables the cast to really shine with stand out performances from Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Josh Gad. Although the opening scene felt lacking, and some scenes don't really gel together well, this is a suspenseful and thought-provoking tale of revenge, that is uplifted by Branagh's immersive take on a classic story.


A Great Film From Kenneth Branagh

I love a good Murder Mystery, especially with an All-Star Cast with Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad and William Dafoe. The acting was Great, and also the connection between everyone on the train.


O David where art though?

This film begins with promise, gorgeous exotic scenery and a sterling cast. But it quickly becomes clear that this is merely a vehicle for Kenneth Branagh who stars and directs. Looking handsomer than ever he commands the cast like the conductor of an orchestra who allows only fleeting moments to his fellow actors, or should I say thespians as this flick plays out very theatrically with little thought for fleshing out Christie's cast of characters.

Branagh even manages to fit in Christ's last supper somehow which would surely leave Christie aghast.

The first half was beautiful enough to look at but after the murder it became a snorefest, indeed the man next to me was snoring. David Suchet runs rings around Branagh when it comes to the little Belgian detective.

Go for the scenery, the costuming and the wonderful Orient Express train but don't expect much more.