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Murder on the Orient Express Review

It's always difficult to review a film that's an adaptation of a piece of classic literature when you haven't read the source material. It forces me to speak only on its merits as a film without knowing whether or not it did justice to what it was based upon. To me that's a very important part of reviewing a film that's based on a beloved work, because of it's being made at all, it should capture the spirit of what made it beloved. While I understand that books and film are two completely different mediums and that some changes must occur in the adaptation process, it's still important not to take creative license to the extent that the original is unrecognizable.

In the case of Murder on the Orient Express, I don't know whether to credit Agatha Christie for the twists and turns the story takes, or director Kenneth Branagh if he chose to take any artistic liberties. However, since Branagh is usually a faithful adapter of works, I will assume that he honored Christie's works and speak only of the story presented in this film.

Murder on the Orient Express follows the story of world renowned detective Hercule Poirot, (Kenneth Brannagh doing double duty here as he stars and directs the film) who ends up the passenger on a train ride he'll never forget. One of his fellow passengers is murdered in the night and it's up to him to find the real killer. The problem is, the more he examines each passenger on the train the more he finds that every single one of them has a motive, making it almost impossible to discover the truth.

Murder on the Orient Express has a lot of strengths, most notably the fine cast that Kenneth Branagh assembled. He's joined by a lot of talent including Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad and Judi Dench. Everyone does a great job and you wish that you are definitely left feeling that certain characters deserved more screen time. With such a large cast, it's hard to give equal amount to everybody, but they all make the most of what they're given. My only issue casting wise is that Michelle Pfeiffer doesn't really fit the period to me, but she still delivers a great performance and makes it work. Branagh is great in the lead role, and really fleshes his character out and makes his quirks lovable. He's a fun protagonist that I'd love to see more of, should Branagh have the itch to adapt any more novels featuring the character.

Films like this, while once rampant in Hollywood don't tend to exist much in the mainstream anymore. Murder is definitely dialogue heavy, and the pace certainly won't be for everyone. But I have to say, I found the film to be completely refreshing and charming. It was a breath of fresh air and something of more substance than most popcorn films nowadays. Towards the end I was getting a little incredulous at all of the coincidences that were adding up, but everything made sense in the end and I was truly surprised where the story went. Branagh's direction is steady and artful throughout, and if you have the patience, it's just a great murder mystery. RATING: 8/10

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