Murder on the Orient Express
I’ve always had an aversion to the way director Kenneth Branagh speculates on redoing/undoing British cinema with abbreviated flashes of bringing old movies back to the screen for today’s moviegoer with the paltry talent pool available. In 1974, Sidney Lumet cast Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Vanessa Redgrave on his train ride; now we get Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz and Judi Dench, all admirable but hardly as compelling as originally intended. But that’s Branagh, who re-did Hamlet, Henry V and Sleuth! And for those familiar with the Agatha Christie story, the crux of the matter comes not from the mystery itself but from watching her world-renowned detective, the mustachioed Hercule Poirot (Branagh), unravel and solve the case. He’s a man who cannot abide imperfections, unnerved over a four-minute egg or crooked tie. While on vacation he is summoned back to London, which requires that he board a luxury train from Istanbul where the murder of an art dealer is complicated by an avalanche that derails the train. Johnny Depp plays Samuel Ratchett, who deals in high quality forgeries and is aware that there are many who have targeted him. After Ratchett is stabbed 12 times in a frenzy, Poirot is surrounded by a governess, a missionary, a doctor, an actress and an Austrian engineer. Originally published in 1934, it helps if the viewer has some basic knowledge of the era in which the story is set.