Murder on the Orient Express (M) 

In a Word: Theatrical

Murder on the Orient Express

Kenneth Branagh stars as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express.

 

"There's a sense of the theatrical about this film - well, it is directed by Sir Kenneth and has a stellar stage-oriented cast - and it's not a bad approach given the subject matter. And while there are a couple of scenes that don't really work - a tableau of the guests looking rather like Jesus and His disciples at the Last Supper, for example - generally this is a celebratory romp through a classic tale."

An ensemble film based on Agatha Christie's famous book, here we see Sir Kenneth Branagh step into the shoes of the lieks of Albert Finney and Sir Peter Ustinov (and, if we're talking TV, David Suchet) to play the fastidious Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

He does so with aplomb - in fact there's a sense here, that the cast relish the roles set before them and that, along with the sweeping vistas of the film, give it its vitality.

The film opens in Jerusalem where, amid simmering religious tensions, we see Poirot successfully set about revealing a thief. He then heads off for Istanbul and it's here that, summoned by British Government who have a job waiting for him in London, he is found a place aboard the famed train, The Orient Express, which is about to set off on its trans-continental journey to Paris.

Poirot's companions on the trip in the first class section (we don't really see any second or third class passengers) are a mysterious group of seemingly unconnected strangers, each of whom has a story to tell: from the thuggish art dealer Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) and his entourage - secretary MacQueen (Josh Gad) and butler Mr Masterman (Derek Jacobi) - to the American widow Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), white supremacist Austrian lecturer Gerhard Hardman (Willem Dafoe), Russian Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench), and English governess, Miss Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley) (and that's only for starters!).

They set off into a European winter and the trip soon turns sour when the train is derailed in an avalanche and it's discovered that one of the passengers in the first class carriages has been killed. Poirot, naturally, is asked by the train's director, Bouc (Tom Bateman), to conduct an investigation and, well, the rest is obvious.

The plot unravels much as a murder-mystery game night and if you've read the book or seen the Seventies film, you'll know the plot (if you haven't, keep it that way for now!), but that doesn't take much enjoyment away from what's really a tribute to the man who is perhaps Ms Christie's most famous creation.

There's a sense of the theatrical about this film - well, it is directed by Sir Kenneth and has a stellar stage-oriented cast - and it's not a bad approach given the subject matter. And while there are a couple of scenes that don't really work - a tableau of the guests looking rather like Jesus and His disciples at the Last Supper, for example - generally this is a celebratory romp through a classic tale.

The cinematography is superb as is the sense of the period in which the film is set. Lots of secrets and mysteries to unravel and some which are left unanswered (perhaps a hint that a sequel shall follow?)

Sit back, relax and enjoy the puzzle!