Kenneth Branagh’s 2017 attempt to bring Agatha Christie’s most complex plot, most famous detective, and arguably most celebrated novel to a new audience came off the rails as far as most critics were concerned; many reviews suggesting that modern audiences simply wouldn’t respond to the old fashioned pace. But a worldwide gross of $350million (against a $50million budget) swiftly put eoufs on their faces. So, is it ‘all aboard’ for its home release or will this murder mystery leave you stranded?
A last minute passenger on the famed Orient Express, the world’s smartest detective Hercule Poirot joins a disparate group of society's very well off and their staff on a trip from sunny Istanbul across Europe. But gaudy gangster Johnny Depp is viciously murdered as the train gets stranded by an avalanche, and it is up to Poirot to solve the mystery.
It’s true that the pace is slow to begin with but, much like the train, it soon starts to build up steam. Branagh crams the film with delights for the eyes, teaming it with sumptuous design, beautiful period detail and fabulous costumes, and he shows the odd directorial flourish. Performances too are trés bien, Michelle Pfeiffer in particular stealing every scene she’s in (although Daisy Ridley proves herself adept in her own galaxy for a change). And if you’re not familiar with the plot, there’s a lot to enjoy as the mystery unravels.
Filmed in glorious 65mm, it all looks fantastic on Blu-ray. The disc has a feast of extras, too. Many are in the form of one long documentary segmented in to different parts depending on the theme, so there’s a look at Agatha Christie which includes talks with her descendants who also manage her estate, a piece about the design of the film, interviews with all of the main players split into three parts, etc. There’s also a more in-depth look at the making of the film, plus the usual stills gallery, trailers, and some deleted scenes.
Best, though, is the commentary with Branagh himself and Michael Green, who adapted the novel for the screen. Likeable presences both, Branagh’s amiable personality, passion for the project and his general bon viveur shine through.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS / 12 / DIRECTOR: KENNETH BRANAGH / SCREENPLAY: MICHAEL GREEN / STARRING: KENNETH BRANAGH, PENELOPE CRUZ, WILLEM DAFOE, JUDI DENCH, MICHELLE PFEIFFER, DAISY RIDLEY, JOHNNY DEPP / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW