Mittwoch, 29. November 2017


Title: Murder on the Orient Express
Running Time: 114 min
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Michael Green
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, Olivia Colman

After Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had retired his famous Sherlock Holmes novels, there was another writer to seize the mantel and please the public with murder mysteries and detective stories. Agatha Christie's classic whodunits have inspired film makers multiple times before. This time, Shakesperean director and Gilderoy Lockhart himself, Kenneth Branagh has taken it upon himself to bring one of her novels to the big screen. And while the same story had already been adapted in 1974, it looks like Branagh spiced up his version with 21st century visuals.
"Murder on the Orient Express" is a solid piece of film making, that might not quite live up to its full potential, but will entertain you nonetheless. Branagh is a master in self-staging. His arrogant and slightly quirky Hercule Poirot takes the spotlight, while the rest of the stellar cast takes a back seat. It makes sense of course, because in murder mysteries it is typical that the suspects are merely chess peaces to serve the story. And having almost every character being played by a renowned actor prevents a premature casting-based solving of the mystery. But if you were expecting an ensemble acting tour de force, you will not find it here. Branagh's One-Man-Show however is so enjoyable that it makes up for that. Every time he directs himself, he takes the opportunity to pick out the role he really wants to play. Thus, he puts a lot of heart and enthusiasm in his performances, that perfectly translates to the screen. It's an absolute blast to see him act.
His directing is similarly joyful. Next to his trademark Dutch tilt, he uses some other lesser used camera angles every now and again. Things like the God's view shot and the POV shot combined with long takes add to the mysterious atmosphere of the film. Furthermore, this film simply looks great. The colors are vibrant; the contrasts are strong; the sets, costumes and props look cool; and of course Branagh's moustache is magnificent. The whole movie is visually slick.
But while the film doesn't have any problem in that area, it is the script that misses some opportunities to have a greater impact. The film's emotional punchline is that Poirot's believe system is challenged to an extent that he struggles to hold on to it. However, the set up of this believe system isn't strong enough. Poirot mentions it ones or twice in the first third of the film, but it isn't really reinforced. Even when it starts to crumble, the film doesn't take its time to show Poirot in solitude, doubting himself and the values that he stands for. He's constantly busy solving the case. It is only in the finale that he pours his heart out. And though Branagh's acting is terrific in that moment, it would have been more effective if we saw more cracks in his faҫade before it breaks.
Secondly, the film does not give the viewer the complete satisfaction of piecing things together themselves, even retrospectively. Poirot jumps to a lot of conclusions off-screen and so the audience is often presented with the solution without knowing how exactly we got there. The story also focuses on motive rather than the exact details and the timeline of the crime and so the events are not entirely reconstructable for the viewer either. 
In general however, this is a perfectly enjoyable film. If you have the spare time and money, watch it in the theater to enjoy its visual style. Otherwise, you can easily pop it in on a DVD night with some friends, preferably on a big TV.  Rewatchable for Branagh's performance alone and certainly arousing interest for possible sequels, this solid murder mystery is definitely good fun. 

For Fans Of:
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Da Vinci Code (2006)

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