A professor, a butler, a count, an assistant, a gangster, a governess, a missionary, a widow, a salesman, a maid, a doctor, a princess and a famous Belgian detective all board a train. As for what happens next, Agatha Christie fans have known for years.
Director Kenneth Branagh has blessed millennial audiences with his personal interpretation of Hercule Poirot, the beloved Belgian detective, famous for his stylish mustache and unparalleled ability to solve any and all mysteries. “Murder on the Orient Express” has been done many times before, most notably by David Suchet who has starred in over thirteen seasons of the U.K’s “Agatha Christie’s Poirot,” and has been affectionately known as the “true” Hercule for years. For this reason, die-hard fans such as myself, were worried when Branagh announced his particularly edgy makeover of the murder mystery classic, complete with a new, more aggressive mustache and swagger. But with tears in my eyes and my undying adoration of Suchet set aside, I must admit, I adored this new Poirot.
“Murder on the Orient Express” follows 13 strangers as they travel through the frozen European landscape in the dead of winter, aboard the luxurious Orient Express. As a landslide derails the train, tensions rise among the passengers as time goes by, who are forced to exist in such claustrophobic accommodations. With the discovery of a bloody corpse, it is revealed that a murderer is aboard the train, leaving the case to the one and only Hercule Poirot, who reveals himself to his peers as “the world’s greatest detective.”
Branagh, who both directed and starred in the film, managed to embrace all of Poirot’s eccentricities: his OCD tendencies, French ramblings and all while delivering a new version of the character. His is just one of many intense performances of the film — which boasts an all-star cast of Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench and Broadway’s Leslie Odom, Jr., just to name a few. Odom, Jr. is particularly stunning as Dr. Arbuthnot, an African American man who faces a litany of racist comments from his fellow passengers, yet remains charming throughout.
The film, which is a visual masterpiece in its own right, is every period drama-enthusiast’s dream. Both costumes and the soundtrack are enrapturing, at times overpowering the actors amongst them. Each scene introduces a new, dizzying camera angle that moves fluidly through the set and its characters. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos, who has previously worked on Disney’s live-action “Cinderella,” breathes life into the compact train cars and barren winter landscape. The gorgeous, panning shots are vast and overwhelming, thanks to the use of 65 mm film, which makes the film a modern rarity that any moviegoer, regardless of genre preference, can enjoy.
Regardless of his immense mustache, Branagh has proved himself to be a force to be reckoned with wrangling a large cast and delivering a poignant tale of murder and regret.