The Orient Express was a storied train journey from the exotic east of Istanbul to the western star of Paris. It no longer runs, sadly, but in the 1930s of Agatha Christie’s famed murder mystery, there is Murder on the Orient Express. Populated by an international group of well-known folk and average Joes, this train journey is an odd mix of suspects. By sheer bad luck, Hercule Poirot, the greatest detective in the world, also ends up on the train and is called into duty to investigate the murder. Bad luck because nobody has been able to get off the train – thanks to an avalanche – including the killer(s) and Poirot is out to find out who(all)dunit.
So begins the premise of the 1934 book and this most recent celebrity-laden adaptation by Kenneth Branagh as our dashing detective and the film’s director/producer. That’s part of the problem: Poirot isn’t really supposed to be dashing. Sure, he’s brilliant – the little grey cells are legendary – but he’s also fastidious as hell and rather over the top in the best Belgian way. In short, this Poirot never lives up to those sweeping grey whiskers. And while Murder on the Orient Express is a visually stylish adaptation from the costumes to the hair to the sets, it comes up short on character development of the overcrowded ensemble. There were two whole characters I forgot were on the train. And I’ve read the book.
Really, really short review: Light on character and heavy on snow, Murder on the Orient Express is elegant, theatrical and pleasant to look at (hey, look, it’s a 70 mm reference to The Last Supper).