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Elegant Whodunit

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Murder On The Orient Express
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz and others
Rating: * * * 1/2

Murder On The Orient Express is one of Agatha Christie’s best books, starring the eccentric Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. A remake of Sidney Lumet’s 1974 film, starring Albert Finney, was not really necessary, considering the story can neither be updated nor reinterpreted; but since Kenneth Branagh directs and stars as Poirot, the audience can expect an elegant period drama. The big differences between the old and the new being
Poirot’s extravagant moustache, and the introduction of black character, who gives rise to a bit of ugly racism.

Poirot, who fusses over his breakfast eggs, and likes everything perfect, travels aboard the magnificent Orient Express, amidst a multi-racial, international cast,most of themplayed by stars though not a line-up as stellar as in Lumet’s film. Themost surprising name in the cast is that of Johnny
Depp, who plays the villain, the man killed on the train. Poirot is reluctantly dragged into investigating themurder.

Tomakemattersworse, there is a derailment, and the Orient Express is stuck in a snow-bound, freezing territory.

Poirot has no choice but to solve themystery, while the train is put back on the rails.

The train is luxurious, the other passengers are rich and well-dressed, and the service, impeccable. In these rarified surroundings, a messy murder
seems doubly inappropriate. Poirot had a brief, unpleasant encounterwith theman,who is obviously a gangster involved in criminal activities, before he was stabbed in his compartment.

Poirot starts questioning the passengers and finds himself in a unique moral dilemma. To give away more would be a spoiler, however, even those who have read the book and seen the earlier film, will find themselves absorbed in the story and enjoying the film.

Branagh adds a touch of playfulness in the opening sequence not there in the book, and clearly enjoys the part in which he grandly proclaims that he is
the greatest detective in the world, and cheerfully insults people in that cultivated French accent. The end hints at another Christie remake — Death On The N i l e — w h e r e Branagh will have a harder act to follow, since Peter Ustinov starred in that one, and is considered the best Poirot so far, with
some votes going to David Suchet.

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