Sir Kenneth Branagh directs, and co-stars with his incredible moustache as Poirot, in this star-laden version of the Agatha Christie classic.
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of murder-mysteries as a genre nor of Christie’s work within it particularly. That might seem odd when I watch Sherlock and lapped up police procedurals like CSI but they did slightly different things. The Sherlock Holmes stories set Holmes up as a genius and let you see him at work, rather than necessarily expecting you to solve the crimes - you watched him solve them from things you couldn’t be expected to string together. Police procedurals, to some extent, do the same thing, but they let you see the evidence being gathered and build, changing who the guilty party is. Not entirely realistically but not entirely falsely either.
However, I’m of an age where adaptations of it formed a staple of my Sunday afternoon viewing so I’m familiar with a chunk of the stories and I’ve seen the previous film adaptation, although I have to admit I couldn’t really remember the outcome - although I did guess or half remember the broad outlines of it as we went through.
In all honesty though, that’s not really the point of this film. I can’t really remember the last time I saw a film with this quality of cast in it. Almost everywhere you look there’s a familiar, talented face and they’re all bringing their A-game, keen to not let each other down. Even when the faces aren’t so familiar, if you check them out they’ve got an impeccable pedigree, just in Russia, or The Netherlands, or as a voice actor or so on. That’s not a surprise having seen them acting in this film. It really is a tour de force of talent young and old.
The set, as well, with three carriages that are apparently recreated from original plans but certainly looked like the real thing, even down to the chandeliers looking right, looked suitably sumptuous and luxurious as it should.
Part of me thinks that watching a murder mystery film should be suspenseful and tense. Murder on the Orient Express misses that feeling, instead it’s like two hours of being pampered in the highest of luxury with familiar old friends. I wouldn’t like that for all my films but it was a really pleasant change of pace and a thoroughly enjoyable night out.
There is, of course, some plot. We meet everyone on the train, one of them is murdered, Poirot solves the murder. There may be small changes to the original, but the basics of the story are maintained - if you know the story, you will know what Poirot uncovers and what he does at the end.
I honestly think this film is just worth seeing, whether you like Agatha Christie or not. It’s sumptuous and fun and brilliantly shot and acted. Pamper yourself. This film ends with a tease for a potential follow up of Death on the Nile and having watched this adaptation I have to say I’d go and see that too.
Bechdel test: Yes. Conversations with Poirot obviously dominate but the princess and her maid both have names and have a couple of short conversations about the dogs for example.
Russo test: Perhaps surprisingly no. Agatha Christie wasn’t afraid of any peccadillo as a weakness to be exploited as a motive for murder. In the time she was writing you could be sent to jail for being gay so it would have been a peccadillo, however much more enlightened we are now. But it doesn’t fit into this particular plot and so no one is LGBT+ at all.
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