SUNDAY 16 DECEMBER
Doors: 2.30pm Film: 3pm
Murder on the Orient Express (12A)
Here’s a juicy Christmas cake of a film, probably the quintessential Sunday afternoon movie. Kenneth Branagh dons the famous Belgian whiskers as Hercules Poirot and boards the Orient Express for a three day break to get away from the world of crime. But of course there’s no rest for the wicked and soon he has a deliciously chewy murder whodunnit to get his wisdom teeth working on.
The film has the very definition of an all star cast, combining the crème de la crème of British acting institution with an array of Hollywood stars…all outshone by the brilliant Olivia Colman. Join us for mince pies and a hugely enjoyable film.
Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel is a juicy fruitcake of a film (or, perhaps more accurately, a Belgian iced bun: a nostalgic pleasure, goes down easy, irresistible on a Sunday afternoon). Everyone’s favourite mustachioed detective, Hercule Poirot (Branagh himself), has decided to take a holiday to read Charles Dickens and enjoy three days on the Orient Express “without care, concern or crime”. But, as we know, no good deed goes unpunished, and a murder inevitably occurs on board. Poirot sets about solving the delicious, chewy whodunnit, each of the train’s curio passengers a potential suspect.
The ensemble cast comprises an enjoyable mix of actor’s actors (the brilliant Olivia Colman), British institutions (Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench) and Hollywood movie stars (Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe and Penélope Cruz), with Michelle Pfeiffer’s kittenish widow and Star Wars heroine Daisy Ridley’s fiery, principled governess the best of a very good bunch. The whole thing works especially well if you don’t remember the book’s original ending (or Sidney Lumet’s 1974 film), though it’s not exactly spoiled if you do. Written by Blade Runner: 2049 scribe Michael Green, it doesn’t try (and so can’t fail) to reinvent Christie, though it does update her slightly, keeping the opulent colonial trappings but having characters call out the period’s racism.
There’s something endearing about the film’s middlebrow purity (it’s also a rare family-friendly 12A). It’s classic Branagh: sweeping landscapes, thundering score, capital-A Acting, and, excitingly – at least for format nerds like me – it’s shot on 65mm film. Large-format film allows for scope and scale, richness and colour, and a tactility reminiscent of the kind of British Raj films that Branagh is explicitly throwing back to. There’s giddy drama, too, in knowing the Steadicam sequences were created manually rather than engineered digitally.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Michael Green (screenplay by), Agatha Christie ( novel by)
Cinematographer: Haris Zambarloukos
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe
Running time: 114 mins.
Mark Kermode Review