Mon, July 15

Movie Review: First-rate cinematic values in Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express is a remake of the 1974 film version of Agatha Christie’s masterpiece novel.

Murder on the Orient Express is a remake of the 1974 film version of Agatha Christie’s masterpiece novel.

Murder on the Orient Express is a remake of the 1974 film version of Agatha Christie’s masterpiece novel. That was a masterpiece of a movie as well. Here we have the same plot with the same twists as before. And that is the main problem with this film.

If you are not familiar with the story, its characters, their personae and the mystery’s resolution, I recommend this film. Some details have been changed and a prologue scene has been added to introduce us to the genius of Detective Hercule Poirot, the ‘super hero’ of many Christie novels.

That opening scene takes place in Israel, at the Wailing Wall. The time is the 1930s. A crime has been committed and three suspects, named by the police chief, are each a leader of a religious sect — Christian, Jewish and Arab. Poirot, in front of a massive crowd, announces who the real criminal is — the police chief.

Poirot then leaves to go back to his Belgian home to rest. He manages to get passage on a ferry and a luxurious train, The Orient Express. He is one of a dozen passengers from various nationalities and cultures, all in staterooms in the first-class car of the train.

There are famous players among the passengers, including Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley and others. The lead actor is the director, Kenneth Branagh, as Poirot. Johnny Depp is an American, Edward Ratchett, who is quite abrasive and annoys the others.

The train is proceeding over some challenging mountains which are heavily blanketed in snow. At one point, the train derails and there is a great deal of distress. There aren’t any injuries, but the extensive delay interferes with people’s plans and personal agendas. During this delay, one night, Ratchett is found dead in his bed — stabbed to death. It is learned that Ratchett was the kidnapper and killer of a child in New York; he was never captured. It was and is still remembered as a horrible tragedy.

Poirot is now engaged in finding Ratchett’s killer. The guilty party must be one of the passengers in that car. He interviews and examines the past of each of the passengers, exposing many lies they have been telling about themselves. Poirot, in his usual fashion finds obscure clues which ultimately lead him to the solution.

So, again, if you are not familiar with the story, it is an interesting mystery movie.

The problem otherwise is not only that you know the solution, but every scene, every interview lacks original interest because you know where it fits in the solution. The acting is very good by all, although their roles are short, except for Branagh as Poirot. He is in all the scenes and he is mostly convincing as the ‘world’s greatest detective’ (Poirot’s own assessment).

All the cinematic values are first rate — photography, costumes, etc. (But that moustache on Poirot is annoyingly distracting at times.)

Murder on the Orient Express is at Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.