All aboard the Orient Express! Well maybe not, if murder is involved. Never one to pass up a chance for a remake, Hollywood has released a new version of “Murder on the Orient Express”, which is now the fourth screen adaptation of the novel by Agatha Christie.
Featuring a cast of hundreds, well actually only 17 characters, the film follows renowned detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) who seeks to solve a murder mystery on the famous European train. The film is set in the 1930’s so you know the train will be fabulous, and one we would all love to travel aboard. The story first introduces the audience to Poirot, and his not to be missed mustache, in the Middle East where he solves a crime and then hopes to rest a bit from his detective duties. However, when he is notified he must return to London for another case, he is able to board the Orient Express thanks to his friend, and owner of the train Bouc (Tom Bateman). While on the train he meets the other passengers: Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz), a missionary; Gerhard Hardman (Willem Dafoe), a professor; Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench); Samuel Ratchett (Johnny Depp), a sleazy businessman; Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad), an assistant to Samuel, Edward Henry Masterman (Derke Joacobi), a butler; Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom); Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), a husband hunting widow; Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley), a governess; Countess Helena Andrenyi (Lucy Boynton); Pierre Michel (Marwan Kenzari) a conductor; Biniamino Marquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) a salesman; Count Rudolph Andrenyi; and Hildegard Schmmidt (Olivia Colman) a maid. Whew.
Shortly after the journey begins, one of the passengers is savagely murdered, leaving Poirot bewildered but determined to solve the mystery. When the train is trapped by an avalanche, the unexpected natural disaster provides Poirot ample opportunity to question all the passengers. All those on board the train, even the owner, can account for their whereabouts the night of the murder, leaving the detective wondering if he can solve the puzzling mystery. However, one surprising twist provides the detective with hope, and just as the snow from the avalanche is cleared, Poirot has solved the murder, but the ending, for those who have never read the novel or haven’t seen any of the screen versions is quite shocking.
The cast of the film is certainly interesting, with Depp in perfect sleaze mode for his role, Pfeiffer displaying both her physical beauty and acting chops, Dame Judi Dench almost typecast as a Princess. As for Branagh, his mustache is practically a co-star, and after you see what he places over his facial hair at night, you will agree. Branagh, despite the distracting mustache, is in fine form as he takes complete command of his role. The scenery in the film is breathtaking, and provides a marvelous backdrop for the story line. However, despite all the quality acting and wonderful scenery, there are several slow moments in the film that nearly derail the film. In addition, I really don’t understand the need for another version of this story. Maybe “Return to the Orient Express” or “OE 2” might have better suited for another journey on the famous train. Despite Branagh’s performance and his direction of the film, “Murder on the Orient Express” barely stays on track.
(Rated PG-13) 2 1/2 Trains (out of 4)
Breakfast with Santa & Elf Cow | Chic-fil-A | West Market Street Johnson City | December 16. 9am
Cookies with Santa | Blackbird Bakery | 56 Piedmont Ave Bristol VA
Ho, Ho, Ho! It’s that time of year again and Santa will be visiting Blackbird to hand out cookies to all the boys and girls (while supplies last) that attend. Don’t miss this opportunity to tell Santa what you want for Christmas! December 19. 6:30 – 9:30pm