Murder on the Orient Express — “A frivolous, endearing tale”
Kenneth Branagh’s star-studded remake of Agatha Christie’s celebrated novel takes us inside an opulent steam train in this charming and nostalgic murder mystery.
The infamous Hercule Poirot (Branagh) is joined aboard the iconic train with an eclectic mix of society’s upper echelons. When the train is brought to a standstill, and a passenger is discovered to be murdered, Poirot is stranded with his most challenging case yet, and each of the passengers becomes a suspect.
Is it the Governess, the Missionary, the Butler, or the Professor? The scenario feels incredibly familiar, showing the immense influence that Christie has had on the genre. However, rather than feeling like a tired old cliché, its triumph is in its quintessential charm, welcoming a new generation to delight in the revitalised old classic. From the luxurious set to the elegant costumes and dramatic dialogue, it is a joy to watch.
The only accusation that can be levelled against Branagh stems from this charming aesthetic: whilst the Express and its characters are visually stunning, there is a sense of superficiality to the film. The characters are one-dimensional, their only depth uncovered by Poirot’s cross-examinations, serving only as a plot device for the mystery to develop. Besides a comically bad Belgian accent, Branagh’s only characterisation of Poirot is his obsessive compulsive tendencies, turning the moustachioed detective into something of a caricature. Nonetheless, this is a film that should be enjoyed at face value for what is – a fun and quirky adventure.
The mystery is complex enough to keep the audience intrigued and engaged, yet not too complicated that we get utterly lost. Whilst it is a perplexing puzzle indeed, Poirot’s musing monologue alongside the developing plot ensures no-one gets left behind. The ending was genuinely surprising, and Poirot masterfully ties up all the loose ends to form a satisfying bow atop a frivolous, endearing tale.