Movie Reveiw

This film adaptation of a 1934 Agatha Christie novel is sorely uninspiring

The plush period drama 'Murder on the Orient Express' remake never gets up a head of steam, writes Tymon Smith

24 November 2017 - 13:44 By Tymon Smith
It's tickets for Kenneth Branagh's plush, star-studded adaptation of Agatha Christie's beloved 1934 novel.
It's tickets for Kenneth Branagh's plush, star-studded adaptation of Agatha Christie's beloved 1934 novel.
Image: Supplied

Agatha Christie remains the world's best-selling novelist - two billion copies sold and counting - so it's no surprise that over four decades since the grand old dame of crime fiction's demise her novels still inspire dozens of theatre, film and television adaptations.

Murder on the Orient Express, her beloved 1934 novel starring Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, has inspired at least four film and television adaptations but none of them have been good enough for Kenneth Branagh, and so the self-appointed Laurence Olivier of his generation has stepped in to rectify that.

This means that Branagh takes the role of Poirot for himself, sporting the most ridiculous moustache since the days of Australian cricketer Merv Hughes and affecting a horribly off-target approximation of a Belgian accent that makes you long for David Suchet's much-parodied television version.

The 1974 Sydney Lumet, Albert Finney-starring adaptation still stands up as the prime example of how to bring Christie's tongue-in-cheek story of intrigue and homicide in the world of the European leisure classes to the big screen.

Branagh follows Lumet's lead insofar as he makes use of a star-studded cast that includes Johnny Depp (doing it for the alimony money), Penelope Cruz (doing it so that we remember she's still around), Daisey Ridley (doing it because she can), Derek Jacobi (doing it because it's easy) and Michelle Pfeiffer (doing it because she actually seems to be enjoying herself).

He also makes use of CGI to create some spectacularly lavish, fantasy versions of Grand Tour locations such as Istanbul.

Thanks to an avalanche, a body is discovered and Poirot interrupts his holiday to turn his detective skills to solving "ze mystery".

WATCH | The trailer for Murder on the Orient

In retrospect, there's a certain preposterousness to Christie's tale and, while that has the potential to provide some delicious delights, Branagh seems to be looking for a serious side to the goings-on that just isn't available.

While it's all very nice to see a bunch of Hollywood heavy-hitters kitted out in lavish period costumes, that doesn't make up for the lack of intrigue.

If you've seen any previous adaptation then you're not here for the mystery and if you haven't, well you're in for a sort of surprise that, once you think about it, doesn't quite make sense.

Ultimately, like Branagh's moustache, this adaptation is all show and not much else and leaves you thinking that whoever thought this was a good idea is definitely, like the Orient Express, running out of steam.