Arguably the largest ensemble cast of the year, director and star Kenneth Branagh had a large task at hand bringing to life the classic Agatha Christie novel Murder On The Orient Express. I had high hopes for this film, it was one of my most anticipated films for the second half of 2017, and although I wasn’t completely satisfied, there were many elements of the adaptation that were enjoyable. Not knowing the conclusion to the mystery, Branagh did a fantastic job of bringing this classic story to the big screen and in a way that resonates with modern audiences. With a strong opening weekend in both the UK and the US, Poirot could be the new major franchise that we didn’t realise we needed.
Despite an obnoxious moustache and with a convincing French accent, Branagh had major success in bringing the classic character to cinemas. I particularly enjoyed the opening scene of the film which helped demonstrate Poirot’s eccentric character whilst showcasing his amazing detective skills. The tone set in this scene is perfect for the film, it is light-hearted and comical at times, without feeling like a parody of a detective film. Some of the slower scenes of the film felt slow because I felt like Poirot lost his characteristics, his jokes didn’t hit as hard and the character didn’t seem as inquisitive as he was at the beginning of the film. The film leaves opens up to the possibility of a sequel, in particular, the Death On The Nile storyline, and I think if the box office holds out in the coming weeks, it is likely this franchise could continue.
I have heard some criticism in the supporting cast of the film, not for their performances, more for their lack of development. However, giving credit to the film, it is hard to pack in 20 developed murder suspects in a two-hour film. I think the entire audience was relieved to see Johnny Depp play a believable character, his outrageous characters were becoming a tiresome, this role proves why he became a household name. The dessert scene between Depp and Branagh helped developed the two characters, give insight into their character’s motives and showcased some of the best dialogue of Michael Green‘s script. I also enjoyed Michelle Pfeiffer, although her early scenes have been criticised for being exaggerated, this makes sense after watching her full character story arc. I look forward to Pfeiffer returning to the superhero genre with her upcoming appearance in Marvel’s Ant-Man And The Wasp.
Looking at the rest of the cast, I only feel like Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr. and Josh Gad get enough screen time to be memorable. Ridley does well to demand attention in a room full of actors, a credit to her acting prowess. I did find her character a little two-dimensional and her story felt confusing, however, I particularly enjoyed her scene having high tea outside the train with Poirot. I didn’t enjoy one interaction between Ridley and Odom Jr. on the boat at the start of the film, this felt a little obvious and always stayed in my head throughout the film. Gad has been making smart moves in his career, having established himself as a comedic talent, movement into dramatic roles will help extend his career. This film demonstrates his character acting ability, he’s not just the voice of Frozen‘s Olaf! I would have liked to have seen more from Judi Dench and Penelope Cruz who both felt wasted in such a crowded film, Dench manages to steal every scene she is in and I would have loved to see more of her.
Branagh manages to get great performances out of his cast whilst carrying the plot as Poirot. The special effects used in the film were very impressive, I loved the scenes showing the steam train racing through the snowy landscapes. He also managed to recreate the historical timescale, I thought the attention to detail for the train set was a credit to the set decorator. The pacing of the film was a little off, I enjoyed the energy of the first 15 minutes and I wish the film would have carried on at that pace. If we do get another instalment of Poirot, I would hope they would inject a bit of energy and humour to help drive the story home. A good start to potential franchise, and a great chance to see some big stars outside of the mega-blockbusters.
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