Film Review: “Murder on the Orient Express”

Tracy Chamoun
Staff Writer

“Murder on the Orient Express” comes as an adaptation of the 1934 book of the same name by the brilliant Agatha Christie, and a remake of the 1974 Oscar-nominated film. As such, it sets out to please with tons of high expectations.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the film also has the latter starring as infamous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, who has yet another mystery to solve. The movie boasts an all-star cast, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp and Dame Judi Dench. As the passengers board the train, they ride further into Europe from Istanbul, with seemingly only one thing in common: the need to reach the same destination. All seems good, until a passenger is killed, and naturally, everyone is a suspect for Poirot to investigate. This is when unknown ties are revealed and chaos in unleashed. The narrative develops and twists – all while keeping you on the edge of your seat.

Along with a masterfully written script, replete with mystery and success, the film flaunts a beautiful score, one that compliments the plot perfectly. Patrick Doyle composed original music to accompany the scenes. And the soundtrack features Pfeiffer herself in a masterful single.

While pleasing to the ear, the film is also without a doubt pleasing to the eye, with superb costumes and luxury items all fitting to the 1930s bourgeoisie theme. Haris Zambarloukos’ cinematography is captivating as the production evokes lavish style and flair.

As for the performances, the cast does an impeccable job at reenacting the book characters, while adding their personal touch. However, while all of the cast seamlessly brought their scripts to light in their portrayals, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kenneth Branagh were undeniably the most interesting to watch. Branagh embodied book-Poirot almost perfectly, with all his quirks and eccentricity, while Pfeiffer’s depiction was nothing short from extraordinary.

It is clear that the film diverts from the book’s plot line. In its newer rendition, the mystery and wonder of the book appear in smaller doses throughout the film. The film becomes a slightly duller version of its textual predecessor. As the movie progresses, a few things become clear to the audience way too early on, spoiling what could have been an abrupt reveal. While the book will make the reader suspect each and every character, the film, on the other hand, drops far too many hints before exposing the culprit. This does not deny the beauty of the script, but rather reveals a less-organized narrative organization. Perhaps this is Branagh’s intention – it is not the narrative that intrigues him, since the book has long been released, but rather a cinematic exploration of the story. On a good note though, the film does not dawdle or bore, contriving to capture the audience’s attention at all times.

All in all, the film is immensely enjoyable, with a satisfying ending that will leave the audience drowning in thought as the credits roll.

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