By Matt McDonald, Columnist
In 1974, Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” was translated onto the big screen, and became an instant mystery classic. Its remake in 2017, directed by and starring award-winner Kenneth Branagh, not only meets the standard of a mystery classic, but elevates the story to cinematic artistry. With the tone of its original and the style of “Hugo”, this murder mystery is not only more realistic, but even more visually stunning.
“Murder on the Orient Express” follows the great detective Hercule Poirot, a idiosyncratic sleuth who can solve any case, as he faces his greatest challenge yet. When he and fifteen others, trapped on a train in the snow, learn of the murder of one of their own, he must put aside his need for rest and find out who was the murderer. Through a series of interrogations, including one of himself and his skills, Poirot encounters many surprises, lies and the killer in a most unexpected way.
I love the original story, and I was really excited to see this remake of it, not only because of its highly superior cinematographic nature, but because of the cast involved. While there are many movies in which I groan at a huge cast of well-known celebrities, for this movie it works. Because there are so many suspects involved in such a complex case, it was easier to distinguish who was who by knowing the actors from previous movies. These actors, including Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe and Penélope Cruz, are not only well-known, but they played the parts very well.
The man of the hour, however, Kenneth Branagh, executed yet another brilliant role, portraying the character of Poirot with such accuracy, I almost forgot it was him sometimes. He struck the perfect balance between quirky and confident, and even put a new spin on the famous moustache.
I honestly could not find much, if anything, in this movie that I didn’t like. Having a slight advantage in following an already established story, it took creative license where it could and kept you guessing both in the writing and the physical shots used. If I had to be picky, I would say that there were one or two characters that didn’t get as much attention as the others, but that’s being extremely critical. Going into it, I figured there would be some flaws in portrayal considering they were taking liberties with the style of the production, but coming out of the theater, I couldn’t pick out anything that was a big problem.
Overall, the color scheme, sound design, production design, acting, cinematography — every aspect of the film — contributed to the grand scale of this story and heightened it to a much more realistic and visceral end than its predecessor. Once again, Kenneth Branagh made a brilliant movie with wonderful acting, and the story will supposedly carry on into a sequel, “Death on the Nile,” taking place in Egypt. I’m going to call in right now: there will be a Kenneth Branagh-spearheaded ACU—Agatha Christie Universe.