Among Agatha Christie’s work, Murder on the Orient Express has been adapted more than any other except And Then There Were None (a.k.a. Ten Little Indians). For those familiar with the story, it can either be wearying or like hearing talented musicians perform covers of the same song. For the most part, director/star Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express is a fun one.
Branagh plays legendary detective Hercule Poirot. He finds himself stranded on the Orient Express train during a blizzard. Other passengers include a gangster (Johnny Depp), a princess (Judi Dench), a governess (Daisy Ridley), a racist professor (Willem Dafoe) and others. Before too long, one of them is murdered.
There’s a reason filmmakers and TV producers keep coming back to Murder on the Orient Express through the years - it’s a good story. Following Christie’s blueprint with a strong cast that also includes Michelle Pfeiffer and Derek Jacobi keeps Branagh’s film on solid ground for most of its running time. There’s an awkward fight scene late in the film that’s not in the book, but other than that Branagh keeps things zipping along and commands the screen well in the lead role of Poirot. The script (by Michael Green) emphasizes the sadness of the film’s resolution to good effect (the biggest flaw in Sidney Lumet’s 1974 adaptation is the way it handles the conclusion).
If you’re a fan of mysteries, Murder on the Orient Express is worth seeing. It would be nice if it does well and encourages Hollywood to put more whodunits on the big screen.