Murder on the Orient Express, one of the most anticipated films of this end of the year is finally on screen. Based on Agatha Christie’s novel, this story has had a lot of adaptations but only one on the big screen in 1974. More than forty years later, Kenneth Branagh (who recently directed Thor in 2010 and Cinderella in 2015) has decided to direct this classic of British literature.
The first thing that immediately makes you want to see this film is the cast with some prestigious actors (Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley…) Most of them have been nominated at least once for an Oscar or won one. So you could only hope for a film with characters perfectly interpreted and I was not disappointed. I enjoyed the fact that the actors were playing characters who themselves play a role since they all had something to hide from Hercule Poirot.
Kenneth Branagh is quite funny as Hercule Poirot with his almost obsession with detail and symmetry. It can also be seen with his perfect moustache which he takes extreme care as well as the scene of the eggs that must be identical at the beginning of the film. I’m not very fond of his francophone accent. I thought he could have cast a Belgian actor just for this little detail.But I guess this accent is one of the character’s trademark, especially when he says a French word, it worked.
What bothered me is that Kenneth Branagh loves to put himself forward, which probably explains the monologues that the character got. Hercule Poirot also has a lot of close-ups, and if you really pay attention to those scenes, you can notice that he looks digitally younger, and that urges you to wonder if this visual effect is a narcissistic wish of the director. But what bothered me the most were some scenes when Hercule Poirot alone in his cabin, when he was looking at a picture of a certain Katerine (Grey?), illustrated by an unbearable music that did not make the scene credible. Sorry.
Soundtracks have always mattered to me. I sometimes thought that it was better to listen to the music than to watch the movie. Yet, here I had a problem with the soundtrack. Of course, it was not with all the songs, but unfortunately, with the main theme. It is the leitmotif that came back in a loop when Hercule Poirot was saying his monologues. This tearful music that is supposed to move you, got on my nerves. And when I realized that it was also the theme of a song Never Forget (whose lyrics were written by Kenneth Branagh and sung by Michelle Pfeiffer) I thought “Please, kill me”. Then, I saw that the composer was Patrick Doyle (the usual composer of Kenneth Branagh) and as he is not one of my favourite ones, I was not surprised I didn’t like it.
The other negative point was this horrible product placement for a Belgian chocolate brand that was not subtle at all. The brand appeared only twice on screen but it was already too much. I think a blink of the brand in the middle of the screen would have been the same. Too bad.
If you don’t know the story, you will follow Hercules Poirot as an assistant trying to solve the case: figure out who killed the gangster Samuel Ratchett, played by Johnny Depp. You will try to find the clues as a puzzle until the revelation. This moment when Hercule Poirot gathers all the suspects to announce who is the murderer. Except that Hercule Poirot doesn’t need to tell you who is it because the scene is strangely similar to “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci, and if you know quite the painting, the instigator of the murder will be obvious. I think it was well done.
One thing I was afraid of, was that the film would be long and slow. But when Hercule Poirot solves the case, I remembered thinking “Already?” And it was quite nice.
I liked watching Murder on the Orient Express. I liked what Kenneth Branagh did with Hercule Poirot and I liked the cast acting like a troupe in this film rather than individual characters.