In some respects, reviewing this film seems like a waste of time because the whole franchise is Marmite. (For my non-UK readers, Marmite is a strong, yeast based spread which “You either love it or hate it” and nothing will change your views).
I freely admit to being a hard-core fan since I was in New York when the first film opened and saw it on Times Square just a week after it opened in 1977.
After seeing this tale from the series, I was left feeling conflicted. There is something missing from the spirit of the film, which I think I have identified.
What is present is an atmosphere of foreboding. Part of this is the realisation that Carrie Fisher will not be in any further films, but also that the story is losing itself in a circle of plot clichés.
So what is missing? Joy.
The simple, innocent joy, that in the eternal fight of good vs evil, knowing that good will always be triumphant.
Also, the pure joy of love and laughter.
Sadly my inner 14yr old child was not excited by this film, but my adult self was. Tor this reason I give it 4 out of five stars.
Since 1974 there has been at least five major productions of Murder on the Orient Express, so how do the makers keep the latest incarnation fresh and appealing?
Well they have done a number of things, first and foremost, put a great director in the chair with a great actor in the lead. In this case both are the same person, Kenneth Branagh, who dominates this film with a far richer, multi faceted Poirot than any I have seen on screen, big or small. His Hercule Poirot is an eccentric, sentimental, razor sharp detective. He also gives time to generating an in-depth portrait of why Poirot is the self proclaimed ‘Great Detective’ By doing this, new audiences will have some understanding of Agatha Christies hero.
The second step is to populate the Orient Express with a full cast of A-list actors. All deliver first class performances, including the younger stars who really impress next to their noble elders.
Third, you create an atmosphere of claustrophobia mystery and fear. This is achieved by making the sets so tight that, for several scenes, the only place to put the camera is in the ceiling.
Finally, you place the train in a totally realistic setting, both historically (by referencing actual events with just the names changed) and visually (with restrained by convincing use of CGI to convince you they are in the mountains).
I think we are guaranteed another outing for the ‘Great Detective’ fairly soon.
I left the cinema feeling very satisfied by a great story well told.
The full 5 out of five stars for Mr Branagh and company.