Review / ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ (M) *** and a half

UNTIL now, Sidney Lumet’s 1974 version was the only theatrical film telling the tale concocted by Agatha Christie and published on New Year’s Day, 1934, of murder and revenge aboard George Nagelmackers’ luxury train.

In this 2017 version, director Kenneth Branagh also plays Hercule Poirot. The cast combines acting luminaries – Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz – with promising younger actors. And Johnny Depp plays the victim of murder, found covered in stab wounds in a locked cabin.

The film looks good. Branagh brings a nice touch of whimsy to the character without diminishing Poirot’s anger about crime and his willingness to engage in a mote of violence. Michael Green’s screenplay further humanises Poirot by showing us a photo of Kathryn, now deceased but whom Poirot still loves, and having him occasionally smile and even crack a gentle joke.

The whodunnit element is convincing enough despite not expecting too much audience anticipation.

The long-running TV series conditioning us to envisage Poirot as played by David Suchet almost certainly explains why, at the morning session I attended, the audience was bigger than usual.

At all cinemas

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