There’s a reason why “whodunits” no longer exist in abundance, usually the screenplay follows a patterned narrative. Nevertheless, they make sure you’re bound at the edge-of-the-seat giving thrills and chills. Agatha Christie’s novel is smartly adapted by screenwriter Michael Green into a film adaption by Actor-Director Kenneth Branagh, who was last seen in “Dunkirk” (2017). I haven’t seen the 1974 film adaption nor read any words by Agatha, so Kenneth’s directorial version comes without any predisposition.
Set in 1930s, a businessman Rachett (Johnny Depp) is murdered on the famous European Express in the elite compartment. Hercule Piorot (Kenneth Branagh), the greatest detective also travels along with 12 others, including a professor, a princess, and doctor. When an avalanche stops the train by derailing it, Piorot sets out to find the murderer as he races against the time. I must say, like James Cameron’s “Titanic” which has an arousing set up before the journey; likewise, an exciting set up follows a lavish trip amidst the European geography. Much of the set is helmed by its superior technical aspects like crisp Editing, captivating Cinematography and tight Screenplay.
The film which runs less than 120 minutes is an immersive and impressive journey of characters having strong backstories which add complexity to the case. Much of the film is shouldered by the lavish production design and the stellar cast. There’s something about the periodical Hollywood films which fascinates and stimulates me. Right from the beginning, Kenneth and Michael Green take us through different terrains and landforms from Jerusalem, Istanbul to the snowy mountains of the Europe making the journey more enthralling.
As the mystery starts unfolding, the film derails into clumsy narrative and way more liberties- but thanks to the stellar cast. Though we see it coming and even before if you’re an adrent lover of “whodunits”, blame it on the casting. Johnny Depp suits up the character with his typical “Jack Sparrow” touch while Kenneth Branagh pulls up Piorot brilliantly. Though he may remind you Martin Sheen, nevertheless a character does exclaim, “Why are detectives so funny-looking?”. From Michelle Pfieffer to Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz along with Josh Cad and Leslie Odam Jr, lend a stellar support. Everyone comes along with a grey shade and at the shivering climax, the subdued character souls tactfully invades the mystery.
Agatha Christie’s writing is masterful in the first place, that speaks for the most of the time. The film released in India after 2 weeks of the original release, such a powerful developing nation still has to go under such cinematic lackluster scrunity? The worst thing is that the reviewing started pouring out from around the world which were mixed to negative. But many of Indians still haven’t seen the 1974 film adaption and that makes Kenneth’s film work.
Even after the mystery is solved, past is justified and souls are mended- there’s palpable sense of loss while many issues interfere, mainly the patterned narrative but in the overall journey, the train reaches with much satisfaction and distilled cinematic experience safely.
“There is right, there is wrong” says Piorot in a particular scene, this film gets everything right. The good old-fashioned filmmaking, stunning Cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos, the magnificent orchestral score by Patrick Doyle and the guilty pleasure of watching a periodical Hollywood film is highly pleasing. Recommended cinematic journey!
Release: 24 November, 2017
Director: Kenneth Branagh
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