by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
FIRST LOOK: Prissy, Slightly Campy  21st Century Orient Express Sniffs Justice Delayed

An attorney once told me that justice is not for all that beckon. Sometimes powers overcome the search. Justice then must wait lying buried until truth seeps its way to the surface. 

Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" plunges her famous creation Hercule Poirot onto a snow bound luxury train crammed with traveling strangers intentionally intertwined to an infamous crime which leads to a murder after midnight.

Impressively cast and boasting picturesque snow capped excess, the lavish rail express leaves the rails during an avalanche and a passenger's demise.   Suffice that the legendary detective (no not Sherlock Holmes) happens to be  aboard on holiday from crime solving.

FIRST LOOK: Prissy, Slightly Campy  21st Century Orient Express Sniffs Justice Delayed

Kenneth ("Thor", "Macbeth," "Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit", "Hamlet" ) Branagh directs himself (as the Belgian detective with a polished, layer cut, too wide mustache). He's joined by an A list cast of suspect passengers representing a cross-section of culture, style, and humanity.

Among those riding the rails: Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), a flamboyant American widow;  Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp), a shady businessman, i with an entourage of sorts, his  valet (Derek Jacobi) and his accountant (Josh Gad). European nobility  Count Rudolph Andrenyi, a ballet star, and his wife (Sergei Polunin, Lucy Boynton),   elderly Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench) and her personal maid (Olivia Colman).  a missionary (Penélope Cruz), a scientist (Willem Dafoe), a doctor (Leslie Odom Jr.), a car dealer (Marwan Kenzari), and a governess (Daisy Ridley).

Set in 1935, the detective learns that each harbor deceptive motivations for their own passage.  Branagh's eye for crisp, astonishing cinematography elements paints  a "Casablanca"  Golden Age of Hollywood style that mixes  expressive wide narrative  shots ( a slow exterior sweep of character faces through windows, a perilous trestle shivering outdoors) with mandated inquisitive half in jest morsels  that chug the story along even when the near genius Hercule appears stumped.

FIRST LOOK: Prissy, Slightly Campy  21st Century Orient Express Sniffs Justice Delayed

Branagh's  prissy Poirot beams a suave, ultra cool, sedate and calculated perfected presence. His  persona provides him memory of astonishingly out of place small details which pull  the evidence together whether in Jerusalem or stranded by snow.With the alleged killer apparently trapped on board, he discovers a buffet of clue possibilities --- some true, some false, some inconsequential, some manufactured for him. 



Agatha Christie's "Orient Express" has been made five times. The 1974 Albert Finney, Maggie Smith, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Vanessa Redgrave and Sean Connery version remains the most revered.  Christie based the lynch pin on the Lindbergh kidnapping which equated to a 30's O.J. sensation. With the kidnapping officially unsolved (but politically correct suspects in available) , that crime led to this killing. But, of course, who? 

FIRST LOOK: Prissy, Slightly Campy  21st Century Orient Express Sniffs Justice Delayed

Tweaked here and there the current release has a few elephants in the auditorium left slurping .   As the good detective makes his rounds (walking outside on the roof of the stopped train) ,  campy convenience abounds, like the tea time  snow scene, saucers versus canes, even suspects waiting  casually yet nervously in the cold  of a blocked tunnel. That suggests an idea of how spiffy passengers and calculated details intertwine the hypothesis. He spouts the best clue at the opening --- who benefits the most when imperfections stand out? 

A "must ask" is --- have you read the novel or seen other versions?  Holding you in "suspense" largely depends on your answer. Teasingly humorous  best description for veterans of Christie. Solid performances. 

Social media has been favorable locally. Several posted that they will buy or dig out the older one . To sum up, "loved it! Branaugh was great!"