Hercule Poirot wants a holiday. He’s been working as the world’s greatest detective non-stop and has just solved what looked to be an impossible case in Jerusalem. He doesn’t just need a break; he deserves one. His dreams of enjoying some time off come crashing down around him however, when he receives a telegram which will see him board the Orient Express and head for London. It all sounds like a relatively simple affair, but with Murder On The Orient Express, nothing is ever that straightforward. Based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name, it becomes instantly apparent that Poirot will be forced to deal with a case on the very mode of transportation he is using to get from A to B, leaving any chance of some rest and relaxation going up in flames.
Not only serving as director on the flick, Kenneth Branagh steps into the shoes of Poirot with ease. Don’t get us wrong, we imagine he put countless hours into perfecting the characterisation of Poirot to get him so right here, but audiences should be forgiven for thinking this was one of his simplest roles to tackle to-date, because he makes it look so effortless! He also excels as filmmaker here, working alongside cinematographer Haris Zambarkloukos to create one of the most stunning and unique visual feasts the big screen has seen in some time. From the opening moments in Jerusalem to the closing scene, your eyes will be darting across the screen, taking in all of the lush surroundings and opulent objects that help to build the narrative.
There are a couple of moments in the film that could have been woven together a little more seamlessly. The train is chugging instead of speeding along at times, without a sense of urgency to find the killer up until a moment which sees them attempt to strike again.
The story being told is a rich one, in which only an all-star cast would do. Branagh stars alongside some of the greats, such as Michelle Pfeiffer as Caroline Hubbard, Olivia Colman as Hildegarde Schmidt, and Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff, as well as younger talent including the likes of Tom Bateman, Daisy Ridley, and Leslie Odom Jr., that have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
Here, they all equally manage to raise the bar and put on a great performance. Johnny Depp may also be amongst the cast, but he’s thankfully not given too much to chew over in his role. It’s hard to look at the man in the same way ever since he hit the headlines for all of the wrong reasons in regards to his domestic troubles with ex-wife Amber Heard. Still, even in clearing the mind of all of that and trying to judge his performance in this film alone, he’s pretty one-note, eclipsed at all times by the far superior actors in his company.
In putting that piece of casting aside, everybody involved here has done a spectacular job. Christie’s stories are renowned for being campy in nature despite the subject matter or murder being pretty heavy stuff. Her work has made audiences feel good, though the characters involved feel anything but, and there’s a lovely dose of underlying humour woven throughout.
Any huge fans should pick up the 4K Ultra HD or Blu-ray versions of the flick in order to get their hands on the complete set of brilliant special features. Sometimes, these additions can be a bust and not worth the extra bit of cash upgrading from DVD to Blu-ray, and whilst seeing the film in stunning HD is worth the added dosh alone, the special features should easily persuade any non-believers. The alternate opening and collection of deleted scenes for example are very much worth spending some time exploring. There’s also a gorgeous little featurette delving into the career of Agatha Christie herself. Treat yourself and pick it up! It should make the perfect gift for Mother’s Day.
Murder On The Orient Express is available now on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and digital download, from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.