Murder on the Orient Express is Kenneth Branagh’s take on the Agatha Christie classic of the same name. Unfortunately the label “classic” will be a one left behind with the source material and will not take the journey with this expedition of the famous steam train. The film is packed with a star studded cast including Dame Judy Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer and Branagh himself, playing the moustachioed detective Hercules Poirot. Despite the A-list cast the sheer number of characters means no one person, besides Branagh, has enough screen time to shine, seemingly a waste of the award winning talent the film boasts.
Branagh himself spends the majority of his time as Poirot either correcting the pronunciation of his name, Hercule not Hercule”s”, or wise cracking making it hard to lay a foundation of darkness and mystery required for a story centred around murder. Regarding the actual narrative of the film it’s hard to critique the story given its rich source but the presentation of said story was slightly lacklustre. The beginning of the film spends a good deal of time introducing us to Poirot and his detective capabilities, possibly a little too long given the generally well known nature of the character and thus takes a while until we are eventually aboard the orient express.
Once aboard we are quite quickly introduced to the array of colourful characters we will take this journey with. What follows is a story that attempts to build suspense through the mystery Poirot is trying to solve but due to the often over the top performances from many of the actors, possibly due to the little screen time each is trying to make the most of, and the large focus on the humour of Poirots character, it is less suspenseful and more annoying. The film does impress quite a bit visually, and props can be given to Branagh, given that the majority of the film is set in the confines of train carriages, he never loses sight of the trains geography and you always know where you are no matter the point in the film. Also the camera moves quite gracefully through and around the minimal space.
The great story by Christie saves this film from being totally boring and the impressive visuals by Branagh allow for some aesthetic pleasure but rather than enjoying the investigation and all of its discoveries you may find yourself wishing the train arrive at its destination as quick as possible so you can dismount the train as promptly as the passengers wish to. 5/10