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Murder on the Orient Express

November 30, 2017

The cast of Kenneth Branagh’s new Murder on the Orient Express

 

     Everyone is a suspect. Kenneth Branagh’s star-studded adaptation of Agatha Christie’s beloved novel Murder on the Orient Express has mystery-lovers and thrill-seekers alike bursting with excitement. In its two trailers and multitude of posters, all branded with the ominous tagline “Everyone is a suspect,” the new release of Christie’s acclaimed story appears immersed in mystery and glamour.

     Agatha Christie’s novel Murder on the Orient Express was released in 1934 and remains one of the greatest crime fiction books of all time. The story details the abruptly halted journey of thirteen strangers on the Orient Express in the 1930s. When a man onboard is gruesomely murdered, detective Hercule Poirot agrees to investigate the case, interrogating each of the passengers to uncover the killer before he or she strikes again. Missionary, maid, princess, doctor, and gangster, among many others, are all suspects, and Poirot races to discover who the perpetrator is before it is too late.

     The original Murder on the Orient Express, adorned with suspense, drama, and charm, has remained an important part of popular culture in the many years since its publication. Christie’s esteemed novel has been adapted multiple times for both television—contemporary CBS adaptation in 2001 and a 2010 episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot—and film. The 1974 film Murder on the Orient Express, directed by Sidney Lumet, was critically acclaimed and received six Academy Award nominations, as well as one win (Ingrid Bergman as Best Supporting Actress).

     Kenneth Branagh’s new adaptation is looking to recreate the cinematic appeal of the 1974 Murder on the Orient Express with a large budget, a renowned cast, and all of the vintage allure of Agatha Christie’s time. The exciting trailers for the film guarantee a balance of action and thought-provoking plot. The cinematography alone is gorgeous and vibrant, yet isolating; the extensive landscapes trap the characters—and the viewers—on the train with the murderer for the entire film.

      The trailers and posters for the 2017 Murder on the Orient Express also showcase a beautiful cast of mysterious and dynamic characters. The cast includes Penelope Cruz as the missionary, Johnny Depp as the gangster, Michelle Pfeiffer as the widow, Josh Gad as the assistant, Daisy Ridley as the governess, and Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr. as the doctor, among many other big-name stars. Kenneth Branagh has cast himself as Poirot, the eccentric yet brilliant Belgian detective, a controversial move that will be interesting to experience in theaters—Poirot is regarded as one of the most iconic detective figures in literary and cultural history, and some audience members have expressed worry that Branagh is unsuited for the part, his portrayal of the detective lacking in the egotism and cynicism that define Christie’s original character. Each of the cast members has been given his or her own poster, emblazoned with their title in the film’s narrative. Murder on the Orient Express appears very character-driven, revolving largely around each individual figure and encouraging audiences to engage in the big guessing game of “whodunit?”

      Despite promising commercial material, Murder on the Orient Express has received rather poor feedback from critics thus far. Criticisms of Branagh’s film have cited its slow-moving plot for those who already know the film’s conclusion, as well as Branagh’s own portrayal of Poirot, who dominates the screen and takes away from the supporting characters that should be so central to the narrative.

     Nonetheless, Murder on the Orient Express has achieved immense box office success upon its UK release on Nov. 3, grossing $6.5m over its opening weekend and overtaking Thor: Ragnarok. Murder on the Orient Express’s premiere weekend in North America has been expected to produce a similar outcome, with its lavish budget and renowned cast of celebrities.

      Will the 2017 remake of Murder on the Orient Express live up to its prosperous history? It will need to withstand the criticisms of long-time Agatha Christie fans, preserve the iconic character of Detective Poirot, surpass the success of the highly acclaimed 1974 adaptation, and entreat audiences with the abundance of suspense that the thrilling and beautifully shot trailers have promised.

 

PC: letterboxd.com

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