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Murder on the Orient Express  

Review: written 2017

Beautifully styled, brain not required

It’s a story that has come to the big and small screen before, so what is new to the table this time round? Well, if you are a first timer to the ‘whodunnit’ element, prepare yourself for a treat, as Agatha Christie crafted a one of her most enjoyable puzzlers in this one. For those who are revisiting a well loved classic, there’s a lot of shine and sparkle on display with the starry cast hamming it up for all they’re worth, but the ‘leetle grey cells’ are not much exercised.

Branagh has crafted a version which is clearly in love with the material, and photographs it in sumptuous colours and widescreen panache.. and he’s also clearly relishing his role as Hercule Poirot, probably the world’s greatest detective. However while he does more than most versions to explain a little of Poirot’s way of thinking, everything else seems more superficial. With Christie the joy is in the characters interplay with the detective and fathoming how he puts the pieces of the puzzle together – instead here we have the emphasis on characters as stereotypes, leaving it feeling a little bit like watching a movie version of Cluedo. Even the trailer shows us each of the cast with a one word description of their character. Drama has been inserted to whizz things along a bit – the snow drift is now an avalanche; There’s some jumping around on a bridge. This doesn’t serve to make the story itself drive forward much, and I wish instead that some of the excellent cast had been given more chance to have some meaty scenes. That said, there are plenty of moments to enjoy. Poirot has a fun introduction that seems a little more Guy Ritchie than Agatha Christie, and the few moments where characters do have those elusive meaty scenes – Depp and Pfeiffer having a moment in the hallway of the carriage, for example – keep attention from wandering.

This isn’t to suggest the movie fizzles, it actually is a fun movie to watch. The bottom line – I did enjoy it, just had expected to find something a bit less shallow. First timers to the story may be better served going to the 1974 Albert Finney version.

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