Rated: PG-13 for violence and thematic elements. Reviewed by: Frank Release date: November 10, 2017 Released by: Twentieth Century Fox
Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) finds himself on the Orient Express which strangely has a full house of interesting passengers requiring him to bunk in with one of the other travelers as the deluxe train travels over mountains on its way west.
Poirot has been pressed into taking a new case which requires him to travel as quickly as possible so he unexpected finds himself in what may be his most popular and interesting murder mystery. One which will test his strict moral code.
Poirot is thrust in the middle of a murder investigation as the spectacular train is snowed in as it reaches the heights of the mountain pass which must be traversed. He is also challenged by a variety of characters and a solid cast carrying out the plot.
Initially we find Poirot challenged by a governess Mary (Daisy Ridley-Star Wars Episode 7) who is strong enough to become involved with a doctor of color, Hamilton's Leslie Odom Jr, which Poirot figures out using his usual observation skills. While Johny Depp is a dark Mr. Ratchett he isn't as dark or menacing as Richard Widmark in the 1974 version of the same classic.
Director Branagh crafts the story somewhat slower than Sidney Lumet did in the seventies version. He is more like Sherlock Holmes or Tony Shalhoub's TV Monk. It is his observations of what is not perfect or missing that become his cadre of information that direct his thinking to the correct direction. His desire for precision is measured as he is introduced in the script measuring his mustache and insisting that his two hard broiled eggs are exactly the same size. He appears to see everything and has an understanding of what is happening in the World. Put that together and the unraveling of the crime is an interesting compelling process.
Branagh produces a wonderland of scenery beginning at the Waling Wall shooting from various angles some offered from above give a bird's eye view of the action. The long shots of the train moving through the countryside and particularly in the snow bound mountains add a dimension of beauty and excitement to the production. The atmosphere produced of the time period through vehicles and clothing establish the period and accelerate the value of The Orient Express.
Paced more slowly than the 1974 production it appears to deal with a more thoughtful and less excited atmosphere. That allows for an easier path to follow the many stories on hand in the lives and directions of the passengers on the faithful train. The murder is important but the survivors are the story and the moral imperative which Poirot must face polishes the end of the film and is the true core of what Murder on the Orient Express is about.
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