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July 9, 2018

Murder on the Orient Express (2018) --- "Everyone Is A Suspect, But The Ending Will Leave You Speechless."

Plot Summary
A lavish trip through Europe quickly unfolds into a race against time to solve a murder aboard a train. When an avalanche stops the Orient Express dead in its tracks, the world's greatest detective -- Hercule Poirot -- arrives to interrogate all passengers and search for clues before the killer can strike again. (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     I must first point out that I have not had the opportunity to read the book on which the film is based on, so this review contains no comparison between the two different formats. More than 40 years after her death, Agatha Christie’s work still lives with the BBC regularly producing miniseries based on her work. And now within the same year we, as moviegoers, get to see not one but two of her famous books come to life on screen. The first is what Kenneth Branagh's recent interpretation of Murder on the Orient Express (2017), while the second is based on the book Christie considers to be her best and favorite work, Crooked House. This review is based on former of the two.
     I have not seen the 1974 version directed by Sydney Lumet (1974, Murder on the Orient Express) and starring Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich) but neither did director Kenneth Branagh (The Fifth Element) in order to create a fresh version with a different take. Director Branagh was bold by even attempting to remake this film and I wonder how much different this film is from the original, let alone the book. I found this version to be very entertaining and only makes me wish to see the original, so as to compare any differences.
     Every time a film is adapted for a novel, bestselling or otherwise, we as an audience compare the two mediums without taking into account that both sides are superior in their own right. Personally, I believe that most novels are superior to their film counterparts. Why? Sometimes what you write in a book may not necessarily translate well on screen so as a result certain parts are either altered or scrapped entirely. However, when we compare the two mediums we lose sight of the film’s purpose. I recommended that, unless the film completely disrespects the book, we forgo comparing the two mediums and take them for what they are without bias. Murder on the Orient Express (2018) is a true periodic and thrilling crime film that leads you through a complex detective process and will make you question everyone. Towards the beginning of the film, there are touches of humor but the suspense starts to build as detective Poirot realizes he has limited time to solve the murder. The emotion starts to build with the revelation of each character’s secrets that by the end we are left with tears and a sort of bittersweet feeling in our hearts.
     The cinematography (Haris ZambarloukosThor,  Batman Begins) and the music score (Patrick DoyleEragon, Thor) work hand-in-hand in transporting the audience to another era as well as set the atmosphere for every scene with an opulence and grandeur that surrounds 1930’s train travel. In one scene the winter atmosphere will make you want to cuddle up by the fireplace with a hot drink, while another will give you the chilling feeling of being isolated in a barren and frozen landscape. The train atmosphere will leave you feeling cozy in one scene, while another scene will make you tense and claustrophobic. All I can say is, be prepared to go on an emotional rollercoaster as we move from one scene to the next.
     It can be a challenge to create a successful film with a large ensemble cast that produces stellar performances. As we all know, it is easy for certain characters to outshine the rest but that is not the case for this film. Kenneth Branagh has some big shoes to fill after Albert Finney’s (1974 version) Oscar-nominated performance and David Suchet's (Agatha Christie’s Poirot) fresh new angle. However, Branagh makes the Belgian detective charming and likable but it is clear that the character has a lot more growing to do. As more and more secrets are uncovered Poirot’s black and white view on justice gets brought into question. His head says one thing while his heart says another. I am glad that the filmmakers decided to focus on this aspect of character as well as using small displays of humor to cut through Poirot’s perfectionism and seriousness.  The rest of the ensemble cast also provided solid performances with few more note worthy ones. Michelle Pfeiffer (The Family) is beautiful yet suspicious, Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean) oozes all the vile traits of a corrupt man with dark tendencies, Derek Jacobi (Underworld Evolution; Gosford Park ) portrays the typical mysterious butler, Josh Gad (Artemis Fowl) takes on a new role as the greedy accountant with suspicious intensions, and Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: Force Awakens) is delightful as a strong-willed character that is completely different from Star Wars’ Rey.

     Overall, Kenneth Branagh’s version of Murder in the Orient Express (2018) is thrilling. The story is suspenseful and complex with enough twist and turns to leave you suspicious of everyone, even the detective and the victim. The cinematography and music flawlessly transports us to the 1930’s and sets the atmosphere for every scene. The large ensemble cast provides stellar performances that will make you question everyone’s stories and intentions. Although this version is not for everyone, I highly recommend it to any mystery lover and fan of Agatha Christie.

"There is right. There is wrong. There is no in-between. I can only see a world as it should be. It makes an imperfection stick out like the nose on your face."
- Hercule Poirot

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  10 of 10 stars
Worth Buying:  10 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar 
Clue (1985)
Casino Murder Case (1935)
Crooked House (2017)
Dark Place (2015)
Death of Broadcasting House (1934)
East of Piccadilly (1941)
Gosford Park (2001)
Girl on the Train (2016)
House of the Arrow, The (1953)
List of Adrian Messenger (1963)
Mirror Crack'd (1980)
Spider Woman, The (1943)

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