Murder On The Orient Express(2017) Review
Cast : Kenneth Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Tom Bateman, Willem Dafoe, Olivia Coleman, Judi Dench, Lucy Boynton, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Derek Jacobi, Sergei Polunin, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer
Director : Kenneth Branagh
Genre : Mystery, Drama
May The Gray Cells Be With You!
"Even though I'm no better than a beast, don't I have a right to live?"
- Oh Dae Su[Oldboy(2003)]
Say what you will, but being a killer sure ain't easy. I imagine that every sane killer had to at a certain point, overcome a whole bunch of intricate neural wiring to actually snuff the life out of a fellow human being. Unless you were born with the devil acting as your sponsor besides the bed where you were ushered into the world, the human brain has been automatically hard wired to accommodate compassion and a feeling of empathy that prevents a person from knowingly causing an irreversible degree of suffering to their counterparts.
So what really does drive a killer to commit the actual sin? How does a perfectly ordinary, God-fearing individual suddenly develop such passionate emotions, strong enough to resist the forces of reason, and break down all social and psychological barriers before taking a life? I'd imagine only a human being with a maimed soul, someone who has suffered so much that they have been pushed past a point of no return, would be able to do it. Which brings me to the question - should we judge these killers whose souls have been fractured, or should we just leave them be(assuming of course that they'd never kill again), free to live the remainder of their lives the way they want, and leave it up to God to pronounce judgment on them?
As our protagonist Monsieur Hercule Poirot(he's extremely particular about the way you pronounce his name - Herr-kyul Pai-row) so often says that there must be a balance to everything. If there's a murder, there's a killer, and if there's a killer, there should be a punishment.
Trains have always served as an elegant backdrop in cinema. The mere sight of a locomotive steaming sedately towards the screen has always had a cinematically romanticized feeling attached with it. Do you know that the train gave us the first ever action movie in the form of The Great Train Robbery(1903)? Who can possibly forget Lawrence of Arabia(1962)'s epic assault on a Turkish troop carrier, or the climactic moment of epiphany in The Bridge On The River Kwai(1957). And need I remind you of the role that trains played in several of the most iconic of Spaghetti Westerns in which the trains served as a great motif for progress and civilization, take for instance the famous opening sequence of Sergio Leone's sprawling epic Once Upon A Time in The West(1968). Trains also provided enough steam power to a lot of World War II films. The heart wrenching image of men, women and children huddled inside cramped train coaches in Schindler's List(1993) has been particularly difficult to shake off. And I haven't even mentioned how The Hogwarts Express was almost as much as any of the other lovable characters in each of the Harry Potter films.
Director Kenneth Branagh knows just how well good, old fashioned cinema and trains go hand in hand. Based on Agatha Christie's novel by the same name, Murder On The Orient Express is a testament to just how well Kenneth Branagh can play the balancing act as both, the director and the actor. As the director, aided with some outstanding camera work(and on the good old 65-mm, mind you!), he uses the Orient Express to serve as a claustrophobic backdrop and as a perfect setting to solve a classic who-dunnit murder mystery. He even gets the best out every one of his supporting actors, particularly Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays the seductive cougar, and also one of the many murder suspects, so well that she could easily fit in an Alfred Hitchcock film.
Undeniably, the star of the film is the director himself, who breathes life into the iconic Hercule Poirot. In a performance that is as elegant as his upward-curled moustache, Kenneth makes the viewers root for his quest in seeking the truth from within, and not without. A man who gets irritated with the slightest imperfection, such as mispronouncing his name, or a particular dislike for men with not so straight ties, the film makes the most of his many eccentricities, Kenneth seems to be having a lot of fun in playing him, and there's never a dull moment in the film that suggests it's going to derail.
After seeing Sherlock Holmes God alone knows how many times on celluloid, it's great to see the spotlight finally shining on his Belgian counterpart. With Murder On The Orient Express, a franchise is born, and I for one, can't wait to see Kenneth in A Death On The Nile.
I'm going with 3.5/5.