Review: Murder on the Orient Express, eminently watchable but too many flaws to be a classic

Kenneth Branagh in Murder on the Orient Express

Kenneth Branagh in Murder on the Orient Express - Credit: Archant

World famous detective, Hercule Poirot gets a big screen makeover in this all-star adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie novel.

This is directed by and stars Kenneth Branagh, who plays the moustachioed sleuth himself.

While taking a well-deserved break aboard the Orient express, Poirot’s holiday plans are disrupted when the train is caught in a snowdrift and a passenger is found brutally murdered in their cabin.

With the authorities days away, it is up to the detective to identify the killer before they have the chance to strike again.

The all star cast assembled here includes Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfieffer, Daisy Ridley and Willem Dafoe, as well as Dame Judi Dench as the cantankerous Russian Princess Dragomiroff.


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Branagh himself has great fun with the role of Poirot, sporting a ridiculously overblown moustache and delivering the detective’s trademark accent with relish.

Poirot’s quirky eccentricities make for some amusing moments and the film works best when the tone is light, however the darker overarching plot seems at odds with the rest of the film and it results in a slightly confused overall tone.

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Michelle Pfieffer is excellent as Mrs Caroline Hubbard and appears to be in the midst of a career renaissance, however the sheer volume of characters in the story means some of the stellar cast are underserved. Olivia Coleman and Penelope Cruz are particularly short changed by the script.

The work of Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos deserves credit, as the the film itself looks great and Branagh adds some inventive directorial flair to scenes inside the claustrophobic train.

Although faithful to the novel, the finale is particularly convoluted.

A much simpler conclusion would no doubt have suited the film more.

To make such a familiar story worth revisiting was always going to be a tall order, but Branagh brings a wealth of experience to the project.

Despite a rather ordinary script and the inconsistent tone, the film has an endearingly old fashioned quality to it.

Ultimately Murder on the Orient Express has too many flaws to be a classic, but the lovingly crafted visuals and exceptional cast make it eminently watchable.

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