A riveting whodunit: Rashid Irani reviews Murder on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie’s classic crime novel gets a stylish makeover, a new all-star cast, and even the killers are dressed to thrill.
Agatha Christie gets an all-star, new-millennium redo in Murder on the Orient Express.
The elaborate plot will be familiar to most viewers over 40, from Sidney Lumet’s also-star-studded 1974 screen adaptation. It is set in motion when an American gangster (Johnny Depp) on board the luxurious locomotive is found murdered in his cabin.
Stranded due to an avalanche, the stationery train provides the setting for a suitably claustrophobic single-location investigation.
On board are intriguing characters played by Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe and Derek Jacobi. And, of course, Hercule Poirot, Christie’s famed Belgian detective, played by director Kenneth Branagh.
Murder… has been shot on celluloid with 65-mm cameras (the format was last used for Dunkirk). Branagh cleverly contrasts the confines of the plush first-class carriages with the snowy mountainside vistas.
Working from an adaptation by Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner 2049), Branagh throws in a couple of action scenes in an attempt to ramp up the tension. In a departure from the source material, the narrative even tacks on a Jerusalem-set prologue and ends with the suggestion of another murder most foul in the near future.
Even those who know the plot will agree that the climactic reveal-cum-solution is conveyed with panache.
Climb aboard the ... Orient Express, then, for a ride back to a time when even killers dressed to thrill.