Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express - Movie Review (3/5 stars)

By Hamza Shafique (Instagram / Facebook)

Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express is based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie. As protagonist, we have Branagh portraying Hercule Poirot, the world’s greatest detective, along with Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer and Daisy Ridley in pivotal roles. It’s a mystery drama with a very simple plot set in early 1900s.

I haven’t read the 1934 classic novel neither have I watched the earlier movies so I went to cinema without any knowledge of the plot. Hercule Poirot is a detective who is on vacation but on last minute notice must board a small luxury train called Orient Express to London. Orient Express gets stuck in the middle of nowhere in avalanche and at the same time one of the passenger gets murdered also. Now it’s on Hercule Poirot to figure out on who the murderer is from the remaining passengers.
I loved the direction, cinematography and drama quotient of the film. It felt like an elaborate Theater play. Being a theater actor myself I know for theater production, directors and actors have to take care of certain things specifically. For example, as there is only the limited option on a stage with a specific set design, director should be able to use all of the set elements. As stage has only one fixed side toward audience so actors have to walk in a certain profile so their face is always toward the audience and speak in a certain dramatic tone so it feels different and dramatic compared to the way we talk regularly. All these theatrical elements are present in this one as this has been shot mostly inside train cabins which gives a stage set sort of feel and mostly has scenes of interrogations. These days we don’t get movies like this so it was very refreshing to delve in to this kind of entertainment after a while. Full marks on direction and acting here and it was expected, seeing all the big names that are associated with this project. Apart from having perfection in acting and direction department, this film is also a visual treat and will take you to a very beautifully cultured world of early 1900s. Film opens in the streets of Jerusalem later introduces you to magnificence of Istanbul and then takes you through picturesque snow-covered landscape till end. All of this creates unique experience and enhance the drama for the viewer.

Well as we know it’s a mystery drama so it is expected to have 50-50 % quotient of both but unfortunately it appears that makers have focused way too much on the drama element of the movie and have not utilized the mystery element to full extent. Somehow, I guessed who the killer was midway so without any jaw dropping twists this movie appeared just a stylized drama film rather than a mystery drama we expected. I believe there was a lot more potential in the subject matter to keep the mystery alive till end but I guess it was lost in the execution somewhere.
Having said that it does not mean that it’s a bad film, it is still a very entertaining experience. It’s a visual spectacular with very dramatic direction. All the characters are peculiar and portrayed to the perfection. Screenplay never gets dull and has humor embedded within, which pops up unexpectedly and pleasantly throughout. And if you have a taste for period drama films with a lot of flare then you need to get your tickets for the Orient Express. I go with 3 stars.

I would like to thank Empire Movies for the Premiere invite and making this review possible.

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