Let’s Talk Kenneth Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express”

The first trailer for Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express has arrived, and it looks fab. There’s just one big problem.

Agatha Christie has been having a bit of a resurgence this decade, after falling out of favor for the last decade of so. The British mystery writer, who is one of the UK’s best-selling authors of all time, has cycled in and out of the public consciousness since her passing away in the 1970s. Though there have been films based on her work since the late 1920s, the first great modern rush of Christie adaptation was in the 1970s and 1980s with Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, On television, adaptations began in earnest in the 1980s with a couple of stand alone BBC miniseries each year, as well as series based on the Miss Marple books (starring, in order, Joan Hickson in the original series and then Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie in the modernized reboot) followed by the 1990s series of Poirot adaptations starring David Suchet.

Though the TV series ran basically nonstop on the BBC through 2013, Christie faded from the UK and US movie houses at the end of the 1980s. In the last couple of years, Christie has seen a resurgence on TV, with 2015’s And Then There Were None, and last year’s Witness for the Prosecution. And now, Kenneth Branagh has decided to remake one of Christie’s greatest whodunnits, Murder on the Orient Express. Much like the original 1974 adaptation (which was so revered it took the David Suchet series until season 10 to tackle it), Branagh has rounded up an all-star cast, and spent lavish amounts of money to make this look lush. And from the looks of the first trailer, which arrived this morning, he’s succeeded well on that front.

There’s just one problem. Ok, for some there are two problems. The first, and the one you’ll probably hear about the most is the casting of Johnny Depp in the John Gielgud role. Depp’s issues with alcohol and beating his wives has become a standing issue with female fans–but the man has deep ties in the industry, and as we see with Pirates of the Caribbean 5, isn’t going anywhere.

But for me, there’s a much larger issue to get past, and that’s Kenneth Branagh in the Poirot role with his ludicrous mustaches. Doubtlessly, Branagh has wanted to play this role for some time, but while Suchet was on television, doing his definitive performance as Poirot, he felt it would be foolish. Suchet has, as we should note, retired from the role since 2013. But as someone who grew up with Suchet as Poirot, seeing anyone else in that position is simply wrong. Suchet defined the character in my mind so heavily that the 1974 version feels marred, because Albert Finney’s performance is not Suchet’s and therefore all wrong. Worse, Branagh is definitely going the Ustinov route. It’s just All Wrong.

Doubtlessly I’ll wind up seeing it because the rest of the cast is so remarkable (much like the 1974 version.) Murder on the Orient Express arrives in theaters on November 10, 2017.


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