The world's greatest detective has returned, with Murder on the Orient Express arriving on blu-ray. Is the mystery worth solving at home, or should you pass it up? Check out my review to find out!
My love for Agatha Christie movies may seem a little odd, but those old school murder mystery movies (based off her many novels) are things I grew up with. As such, I was eager to check out the new Murder on the Orient Express, but I sadly missed out on it when it was in theaters. Fortunately, I had the chance to catch up with the new version thanks to its recent blu-ray release...And I really dug it.
To be fair, however, I don't think this is going to be a film for everyone. A lot of my enjoyment comes from how well the story is adapted from the original novel/film. That includes, however, some of the things that don't always work well in modern movies. The premise of the film is fairly simple. The world renowned detective, Hercule Poirot, is seeking to retire and live out a more boring life. When he boards the Orient Express, however, things take a turn when a passenger is murdered.
Stuck on the tracks thanks to an avalanche, Poirot must unravel the mystery and all the secrets the other passengers are hiding. It's a classic whodunit, and literally everyone is a suspect. Just when you think a major break in the case has happened, another wrench is thrown into the machine, keeping you guessing until the very last moment.
The story plays out at a fast pace and keeps you on your toes. The problem, however, is it feels more like a stage play than a modern movie. While the plot keeps you guessing for the most part, there's a distinct lack of tension within the story due to how it's being told. Moreso, the mystery is just about impossible for the audience to solve. While you're seeing the clues and interviews at the same time Poirot is, there's not enough there for you to figure out what's going on; something that's always frustrating to me with these kind of films. It's an odd feeling, but if you grew up with, or enjoyed, the original Agatha Christie stories/movies it's par for the course.
Where the film truly shines, however, is in portrayal of the characters by the stellar cast. Everyone does a phenomenal job in the movie bringing their eclectic characters to life, with plenty of depth to make each of them feel real. Kenneth Branagh's portrayal of Poirot is perfect. He brings a lot of gravitas and humor to the character and he dominated every frame of the film he's in. By and large, I think I enjoyed this movie most because of Poirot and once the credits started rolling, I was eager to see the further adventures of this version of the character.
This isn't going to be the case for everyone, however. If you look past the great characters, you're left with a story filled with conveniences and an ending that doesn't necessarily give you much reason to watch it over and over again. Regardless, it's definitely still worth checking out for yourself.
Sight and Sound
Murder on the Orient Express is a gorgeous looking movie. Despite being a period piece, there's a lot of visual flair packed into the movie. From the stunning costume designs, to the incredible snow/train sequences, there's plenty of eye candy to enjoy as you watch.
The blu-ray does a great job of highlighting this, with excellent transfer quality delivering a crisp image. Everything looks sharp, and the deep blacks (without crushing) make the colors pop on the screen with excellent contrast. This is especially noticeable when it comes to the snow scenes, when the characters are outside. With all the white going on, it'd be easy to lose the finer details, but that's not the case here. You can make out each snow drift and the characters pop on the screen.
The sound design is given a similar treatment as well, with no audio issues encountered. It's well balanced and everything is given proper prioritization so that dialog is never overpowered by the sound effects. From a technical standpoint, the Murder on the Orient Express blu-ray does a damn fine job of delivering on great picture and audio.
The Special Features
Murder on the Orient Express comes loaded with these bonus features on the disc:
Agatha Christie: An Intimate Portrait
Let’s Talk About Hercule Poirot
Unusual Suspects (Part One, Two and Three)
The Art of Murder
All Aboard: Filming Murder on the Orient Express
Music of Murder
Deleted Scenes (with and without Commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Michael Green)
Director commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Michael Green
Overall, there's a lot of stuff to go over in this release, giving fans plenty of bang for their buck. The Agatha Christie featurette is interesting, though not nearly as in depth as the name ("An Intimate Portrait") implies. The Usual Suspects features give a more in depth look at the cast, while The Art of Murder gives a good behind the scenes look at how the film came together.
There's nothing terribly Earth-shattering within the bonus features, but they all offer up something interesting for Agatha Christie fans, and those who love this new movie. There's was a lot more on this disc than I was expecting, which brings a lot more value to it overall.