Every so often, the world requires a new version of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. Not because no good film adaptation exists, or because there's some new gimmick or development in the world that requires the story to be made anew, but simply because it's what's done. It's a tradition! Perhaps unnecessary, but not at all unwelcome.
|Much like this face decoration.|
There are two great things about this latest adaptation, and they are both Kenneth Branagh. He takes the helm as lead actor and director, and the only thing that overshadows him even slightly is his glorious mustache. His directing style is so inviting yet grand; elegant yet strong. It fits the era wonderfully, and is an absolute pleasure to watch. Beautiful, but not showy, and he finagles around in the cramped train space gracefully. He directs with easy confidence, and the story is such a classic; it's a sure-fire combination for successful entertainment.
With equal confidence, he takes on the role of "probably the greatest detective in the world" Hercule Poirot; a character heavy with the baggage of many fine performances. But Branagh is more than up to the challenge, and proves the Belgian detective is far from being overdone. I expected to love his direction, but was surprised at how easily I accepted him as Poirot -- mustache and all. He disappears into the quirky, interesting role wonderfully, and is an easy stand-out among the talented and large cast. The character gets more devotion than the mystery itself, and I think that's exactly how it should be.
|The rest of the cast produces absolutely no complaints whatsoever!|
I'm pretty tired of seeing Johnny Depp in movies, but even he pleased me with a nice, subtle and memorable performance. Daisy Ridley didn't disappoint as a non-Star Wars character. I can't forget Tom Bateman because he was very nice. I really liked Olivia Colman, and Penélope Cruz impressed. Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Odom Jr., Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi and especially Michelle Pfeiffer were all excellent. I also liked the less-known Sergei Polunin and Lucy Boynton, but they were slightly forgotten, along with Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Marwan Kenzari. With so many characters it was bound to happen.
The mystery might have been done better. My sister and her husband had recently read the book and mentioned a few left-out details they noticed and missed. I only recalled the basics going in, but everything made perfect sense to me, and I left satisfied. A few additions were also made. Some -- most really -- were uncalled for, but didn't do harm to the story either. Mainly they were meant to add a little action, but I found the plot itself to be exciting and interesting enough on its own. One did create a plot hole, which can be explained away only with some reaching. Overall it's a solid, classically simplified adaptation.
|I really enjoyed those tracking shots -- from inside and outside the train.|
In fact the movie as a whole perfectly fits the description of classically simple and solid. Only one thing irked me; the ending that hinted at a sequel of Death on the Nile, and took me out of the moment for a second. There's nothing ground-breaking to see here, but nothing ground-breaking is required. As far as adaptations of this story go, I don't think you can do much better. If you're willing to be left happy, than you almost certainly will be. This is a straight-forward production of excellent quality, and a job well-done.