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Mystery reboot dazzles

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DOUGLAS CUBBERLY
Contributing Writer 

Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery has been adapted for the big screen once again.

The “Murder on the Orient Express” novel, published in 1934, was first put on film with Sidney Lumet’s acclaimed version in 1974, starring Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Sean Connery.

Like its predecessor, the 2017 version also features an all-star cast. Producer, director and star Kenneth Branagh is fantastic as the beloved Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who is tasked with solving a murder aboard a luxury train as it treks across Europe in the dead of winter. As it passes through the mountains, the train is stalled by a snowdrift. When one of the passengers is murdered, everyone else becomes a suspect.

For viewers unfamiliar with the story, this classic whodunit detective tale will leave you guessing until the film’s climactic finish. For those who know the story, or are unimpressed by its direction (as some critics have been), there is still much to be marveled at, including Branagh’s mustache.

Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench and Willem Dafoe are just a few of the Hollywood heavyweights that make up some of the train’s passengers. The film also features young talents such as Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr. and Daisy Ridley. Odom, Jr. won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role in the Broadway mega-hit “Hamilton,” while Ridley is currently the star of the new “Star Wars” franchise.

Branagh steals the show, however, as he hilariously captures Poirot’s quirky obsession to details and symmetry. As he begins to question each of the passengers, the mystery only deepens. The more Poirot learns, the more unsolvable the crime seems to be.

Shot on 65mm film, the cinematography is breathtaking at times. This shooting method helps bring out the isolation of the film’s wintery backdrop. The set design, from the wardrobe to the train’s exterior finish, is meticulously well done. The sound design is also well done. Every crack and creak of the train as it travels across the scenic snow capped mountains.

Perhaps the ensemble cast is spread too thin, but each actor has their moment. In the film’s nearly two hour runtime, giving each character complexity and multiple moments in the spotlight could’ve been tedious. In that respect, I understand their decision to prioritize the plot over fleshing out character development.

Fans of mysteries will enjoy this film. Particularly those who try to solve the case along as the plot develops or trying to beat the protagonist to the conclusion. If you’re looking for a fun movie to see with the whole family over the holidays, check out “Murder on the Orient Express.” I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with this film’s charm and storytelling.

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