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Murder on The Orient Express  : A Leisurely Train Ride In A Jet-set Era
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Friday, November 24, 2017
Kenneth Branagh
Johnny Depp, Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench

If you’ve read Agatha Christie’s thriller and the 1974 film on it is available online, why would you want to watch a 2017 version of it all over again?


One obvious reason to watch actor-director Kenneth Branagh’s revisit to the old classic is the fresh star cast. However limited each one’s screen time, polished professionals like Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench and Penelope Cruz infuse a certain throb into it.


There’s far super technology also available today, evident in the camerawork that doesn’t get claustrophobic despite the restrictive space.


Hercule Poirot’s introduction perks it up further. It may be eccentricity or brilliance but it certainly is fun when the staff’s in a tizzy to serve Poirot two precisely same-sized eggs for breakfast. Poirot even puts a second foot into yucky turd because balance must be maintained. And Michael Green’s screenplay dives straightaway into Poirot solving a case, thereby thwarting a potential communal flare-up.


Poirot’s unique deduction skills are always simple but intriguing and they soon surface when he profiles Miss Mary Debenham even as they wait on a bench for their ship to set sail for Istanbul. He explains that he sees the world as it should be and anythingout of sync is as obvious to him as the nose on your face.


Unfortunately, you don’t see much more of those skills as a motley bunch of upper crust travellers on

the chic Orient Express, come under Poirot’s scrutiny following a murder on the train. The train has been derailed after an avalanche but Poirot’s aboard to find the killer before the tracks are cleared. 


Kenneth Branagh gives himself the maximum screen time playing Belgian detective Hercule Poirot with a huge moustache that stands out like it’s delivering a performance of its own. The mystery itself doesn’t amount to ingenious detective work and Branagh doesn’t give any of the other actors much footage. But the flavours of the characters as they sit around the restaurant car keep it moving interestingly. 


Johnny Depp, as always, relishes playing Mr Unpopular which rogue Ratchett provides him at every turn. Judi Dench who’s snooty royalty, orders her secretary to order her dish while the waiter hovers around. Michelle Pfeiffer is the socialite on a husband hunt.


The dialogues are witty like the one where he’s called Hercules instead of Hercule and Poirot swiftly says, ‘I don’t slay lions’. Or Pfeiffer telling Depp who’s appraising her, “If eyes linger longer, I’ll have to charge rent.”


Unlike the action and CGI-packed adventures that rule the box-office today, this is relaxed, old style story-telling where characters and their stories matter.


Fora repeat version that’s still worth a watch, Murder On the Orient Express gets a 3* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author 
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