My last year at UNC (1974) ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ showed up on the silver screen. It was not bad, but I didn’t really like the foppish way Hercule Poirot, the detective genius, was portrayed. He seemed one part Peter Sellers and one part Columbo, an odd combo n’est pas? By contrast, Ridley Scott’s excellent remake of this classic story is quite excellent. Kenneth Branagh gets the detective just right— eccentric, brilliant, and a decent chap in the bargain. First of all the cinematography alone is worth the price of admission. Beautifully filmed scenes in Jerusalem, Istanbul, and through the mountains on the train, luxury berths, beautiful people in beautiful clothes, lavish meals, interesting conversation and combinations make this 2 hour plus film well worth watching. And then there is the all star cast— Judi Dench, Johnny Depp as the sinister villain, Michelle Pfeiffer (where have you been?), Willem Dafoe, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Daisy Ridley, and Leslie Odom Jr. (fresh off of Hamilton)to mention a few. They all play their parts to the hilt. It’s an excellent ensemble cast. This is a perfect holiday film for the whole family. And if you don’t already know the story, all the better. The movie is not filmed for the cognoscenti, but for anyone coming to see the film. And solving the murder on the train proves to be a big test, even for the likes of Poirot. One may hope that some of the other Christie novels, say Murder on the Nile, will follow. Like the Bond films, these stories have the charm of being something of an interesting travel log along with the story line itself, which is all the more charming since they are also period pieces from the early 20th century.
If only they made more movies like this again.