‘Murder on the Orient Express’ delivers on multiple fronts

photo courtesy of 20th century fox

By Frank Portillo

The remake of “Murder on the Orient Express” is a beautifully shot, well-acted murder mystery with an insanely talented ensemble cast. Based on the novel of the same name, the film is another solid addition to director Kenneth Branagh’s filmography, which includes the first “Thor” and 2015’s “Cinderella.”

Branagh leads the ensemble cast as the self-proclaimed “Greatest detective in the world” with a luxuriant moustache, Hercule Poirot. By chance, Poirot ends up on a train full of strangers and is forced to use his world-class skills when a passenger is brutally murdered.

The film directly acknowledges the absurdity of Poirot’s moustache and shows the audience how he maintains it while sleeping in one of the many humorous scenes.

What follows is a wildly entertaining plot that includes drama, comedy and some top-notch suspense. The plot unfolds slowly and builds tension until the twist is revealed. Those who haven’t seen the original will be genuinely shocked at the conclusion of the film, when all the pieces are put together.

The cinematography is fantastic. The filmmakers use beautifully-shot landscapes to add to the film’s sense of danger. The landscape also speaks to the content of the story, as the audience wonders how such a heinous act, like murder, can be committed in such a beautiful setting.

The beginning of the film quickly establishes the character’s idiosyncrasies and personalities, making it easy for the audience to see what makes Poirot such a great detective. His belief that there is only black and white, good or evil, and no grey in-between is what drives the drama of the story.

Johnny Depp delivers a great performance as a gangster who is in the midst of danger while travelling. His performance is similar to those of his earlier dramatic roles.

Daisy Ridley is great in the film as the strong-willed Miss Mary Debenhem, whose character’s motives and actions are tough to pinpoint throughout the film. Her character presents an interesting roadblock for Poirot.

Another of the stand-out performers is Michelle Pfeiffer. Her character interacts with the others in an entertaining fashion and all of the scenes she’s in stand out.

By the end of the film, Poirot is forever changed by the events that transpire. Branagh and his moustache deliver a beautifully written monologue on the complex nature of the world and gives the audience something to ponder on the drive or walk home. The performance given is so heartbreaking that the audience will be hard-pressed to not get emotional.

Overall, the film is certainly worth the price of admission and should be seen in theaters rather than waiting for it to on DVD.

“Murder on the Orient Express” is rated PG-13 for violence and thematic elements.

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