Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Brannagh) boards the Orient Express only to have one of the passengers try to hire him for his protection. Poirot declines. The next day the same passenger is found, murdered in his cabin and Poirot is required to work the case. When the train is forced to stop because of snow blocking the tracks, he is given more time to find out who the killer is before the police hijack the investigation. During this time, he discovers many of the passengers are connected to an earlier case, a case where a baby was kidnapped and killed and the killer escaped prosecution. This might be the smoking gun in Poirot’s investigation, but can he crack it in time?
Kenneth Brannagh’s Murder on the Orient Express is one of the best book to screen transitions of the year, and by extension, one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen. The all-star cast is made up of a mix of known and not-so-known actors (depending on what film and television circles you dabble in). From lesser “nicher” talents like Olivia Colman (Broadchurch) and Derek Jacobi (Gladiator) who are more known in Britain than anywhere else to Judi Dench (Skyfall) to Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens) to Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean) to name a few, there’s a variety. But it’s Kenneth Brannagh and Daisy Ridley’s scenes together which were my favourite.
The film works and I liked how they kept the fantastic twist ending from the novel. If you don’t remember the novel, it makes for even better viewing as you’ll always be surprised. And that shot with our cast sitting on the long table in the snow had a Biblical feel to it, not so different to the paintings of Jesus and his disciples at The Last Supper. And in a way, Poirot’s final deduction is a last supper for one of them, perhaps. Written by Michael Green (Logan), it doesn’t try to change Agatha. If anything, it tries to update her a little, despite being a very period drama as shown with the colonial themes and having certain characters be at the mercy of the racism of the time.
This film is not a pompous period drama for the highbrow. It’s doesn’t make people feel that they shouldn’t be watching it because it was only made for that “post-forty years old, highbrow demographic”. Other period dramas can give off that feel. However, films and shows adapted from Agatha Christie’s works have a unique trait in being friendly for most, no matter our social status. Murder is no different. From the sweeping landscapes (would have benefited from 3D) to the musical score (Patrick Doyle) to the A-grade acting, Murder for all the family (12A rating) and it’s worth seeing Josh Gad being more than a Disney comedian (great outside of his comfort zone).
Our conclusion is by far one of the most thought-provoking (and satisfying) of 2017. It shows that despite what has happened, you can understand why Ratchett (Depp) had to die. Poirot solves the case (obviously) and he’s in no position to judge anyone. This film is more than just a “whodunit”. It’s not open and shut but it was emotive and it showed us, as an audience, that humans are flawed, even Poirot. And beyond the case, the story is a canvas of humanity itself.