Kyle J. Steenblik

Murder on the Orient Express is a Near Flawless Film

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Murder on the Orient Express
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by Michael Green
Based on Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Marwan Kenzari, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin
Production companies: Kinberg Genre, The Mark Gordon Company, Scott Free Productions
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date November 10, 2017
Running time 114 minutes
Rated PG-13 for violence and thematic elements
5 stars out of 5

In the most timeless of whodunits, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS follows renowned detective Hercule Poirot (KENNETH BRANAGH) as he attempts to solve what would become one of the most infamous crimes in history.

After a shocking murder of a wealthy businessman on the lavish European train barreling its way west in the dead of winter, private detective Poirot must use every tool of his trade to uncover which of the train’s eclectic passengers is the killer, before he or she strikes again.

Published in 1934, Agatha Christie’s novel, Murder on the Orient Express is considered one of the most ingenious stories ever devised.  More than 80 years after its publishing, Christie’s novel remains beloved by new generations of readers. Kenneth Branagh’s stunning retelling of the beloved mystery with its acclaimed ensemble and breathtaking visuals invites audiences to take the most suspenseful train ride of their lives.

Murder on the Orient Express may be one of the best book to screen adaptations produced to date.  Keeping true to source material in plot, character and feel and tone, results in a film that feels as if it could have been produced in the 1930’s while at the same time is obviously modern.  Exquisitely filmed and directed by Kenneth Branagh it is an absolute joy to watch as Branagh uses a full pallet to not just tell a story, but bring it to life on every level.  Couple the fantastic direction with the magnificent performances from an ensemble cast overflowing with skill and talent and the resulting film is practically flawless.  The only thing that I can take issue with is the fact that the subject material is so well known, it has become ingrained in the literary fabric of our consciousness and is therefore almost entirely clichéd.  The production was good enough that there were moments I forgot I knew the source material and I had that feeling of wonder and surprise, before I remembered that I knew what was about to happen.  That said this is going to find a niche audience of Christie lovers, new and old.

To be fair, when working with a story that is more than 80 years old, and was genera defining at that time, and has been a foundational influence in literature, and film ever since, it is impossible to avoid the appearance of cliché and trope.  In fact this was the most significant weakness of this film, and it is completely outside the control of the filmmakers.  The fact that it is a known story means that no matter how well produced and performed, unless they deviate from the original plot, there are no surprises to be had.  There is also the limitations of the characters.  Keeping true to 80 year old source material means the characters will appear as dated architypes and will not conform to what we have become accustomed to see in film, which is fully developed complex characters.

I have been wracking my brains trying to come up with a reason why this film is anything other than excellent.  The execution was so technically proficient, and the screenplay adaptation of Christie’s novel was solid and the performances were marvelous.  I can’t come up with any reason that this films should not be the epitome of a nearly flawless film.

Don’t forget to check out Rants and Reels quick review HERE

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