Simon Dillon reviews Kenneth Branagh's new take on the Agatha Christie classic.

Murder On The Orient Express

Hercule Poirot's luxuriant moustache is depicted far more as described in the novel in Kenneth Branagh's new take on the Agatha Christie classic. Here the sheer volume of exquisitely groomed whiskers are endlessly distracting to quite amusing effect, far more so than the relatively austere moustaches depicted in previous Poirot adaptations, from Peter Ustinov to David Suchet, and of course Albert Finney's take in Sidney Lumet's 1974 version of this same title. Moustaches aside, this new Murder on the Orient Express is an adequately entertaining ride, certainly worth a watch even if you already know the famous twist ending.

The set-up is familiar, with Poirot on the eponymous train alongside a glittering cast of suspects, any one of which could be the killer. A soon-to-be-dead Johnny Depp brushes shoulders with the likes of Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman, Willem Dafoe, Derek Jacobi, Penelope Cruz, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer and Josh Gad. Some of these actors get to do more (Pfeiffer for instance, who is superb), but others are left with little to work with. As Poirot Branagh provides an interesting take, focussing on the character's famous fastidiousness but emphasising his moral quest, wanting to see the world as it should be and therefore noticing whenever something is amiss.

Directorially, Branagh provides some agreeable visual flourishes with the 70mm format, including swooping CGI enhanced aerial shots of trains passing through spectacular, mountainous landscapes (trainscapes?). There are also a couple of cleverly executed overhead shots in the carriage at key moments when the body is found and examined, which I can't decide whether I liked or not. On the one hand they are technically very proficient, but on the other hand I felt they were drawing attention to themselves at a time when I'd quite like to have seen the character's faces.

Still, on the whole this is a solid, entertaining adaptation of a very well-known mystery. I prefer the 1974 version, as I loved the more sinister opening, and the notorious denouement felt more unsettling than it does here, but I will concede that it has dated somewhat. Besides, whichever version one prefers, there can be no doubt that this new version features the most spectacular moustache. CR

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