Murder on the Orient Express Review
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Agatha Christie’s beloved classic Murder on the Orient Express was first published in 1934—and it’s been adapted, imitated, and parodied time and time again since then. But director Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation aims to be both strikingly elegant and delightfully eccentric.

Murder on the Orient Express stars Branagh as world-famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. After solving yet another case, Poirot decides to take a much-needed break in Istanbul—but it isn’t long before he’s called in to assist with an investigation in London, and he’s forced to travel back by train on the elegant Orient Express. When the train is derailed by an avalanche in the middle of its journey and one of the passengers is found murdered, Poirot is asked to solve the case before the killer claims a second victim.

  
 
Kenneth Branagh often seems like a director from another time—which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you feel about classic films. His version of Murder on the Orient Express isn’t the kind of flashy, fast-paced whodunit that today’s audiences might expect. Instead, it takes its time to set the scene, to study the characters, to let the story unfold. The 1930s period setting and the fashionable surroundings on the train give the film a kind of elegance. And it’s given a classic tone, too, mixing comedy and melodrama in ways that sometimes feel almost vaudevillian.

Branagh’s Poirot is an eccentric character with facial hair that’s often distractingly flamboyant. Poirot is a guy who’s read all of the articles that have ever been written about him—and he thinks just as highly of himself as his fans do. Yet there’s something delightfully comical about his pomposity that still makes him an amusingly likable character.

And Poirot is just one of many eccentric characters aboard the train. He’s joined by husband-hunting Mrs. Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), as well as a persnickety princess, a secretive count and countess, a governess, a doctor, a chatty car dealer, and various assistants and associates. And the detective takes the time to speak with each one of them, revealing their secrets, lies, and misdirections in a series of tense interviews.

Still, if you’ve read an Agatha Christie novel or two, you know that she has a tendency to make some pretty big leaps. Her genius detective often picks up on things that no one else will—and many of his findings seem more like lucky guesses than brilliant deduction. Not everything here makes perfect sense. But it still feels like a faithful adaptation.

Admittedly, Murder on the Orient Express may feel slow and confusing to some viewers. But if you enjoy classic movies and old mysteries, you’ll appreciate this stylish whodunit.


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