Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
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People loooooooove to say Kenneth Branagh's new adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express "loses steam" or "gets derailed". Maybe the lure of those puns colored their appreciation of what I think is a very entertaining take on both Hercule Poirot as a character and what is most certainly the mystery with the best-known solution of all time. It is not particularly faithful to Agatha Christie's book, which I think is fair, given that the 1974 adaptation is the gold standard. Let's mix things up, let us believe we don't know exactly what's going to happen. Make it about how Poirot will figure it out, rather than the whodunit it was designed to be. Of course, change the pieces of the puzzle, and it doesn't quite fit as well as it should, with Poirot no doubt guessing at things the book version logically pieced together. Putting the focus on Poirot rather than the mechanics of the crime washes away any sins I might hold against it, as Branagh's performance is funny, tragic, cool and complex. This is a character I want to follow to other movies (bring on Death on the Nile!) and I think creating a fresh interpretation of the famous detective was well worth sacrificing a clue here or a deduction there. Turning the climax into an ethical dilemma (which it isn't in the book) also puts more meat on Poirot's bones. Branagh has more or less addressed my general problem with Agatha Christie, which is to say the intellectual coldness of her puzzle-crafting. I've never cared more for the central character who, in many adaptations, well-acted or not, can be a means to an end. He sets up Poirot's bona fides early, charming me in the same way Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock did, if that means anything to you.
The mystery soon fades, the padding all too transparent. An attempt at a poignant Poirot, perched on a weak frame. Aims to be disparate, is just more of the same.
Fun. Some needless, dumb action bits but fast-paced, enjoyable film.
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