Detective Hercule Poirot is back in new film
DETECTIVE Hercule Poirot has long been a fixture on our television screens, thanks in large part to the efforts of David Suchet in ITV's long-running series Agatha Christie's Poirot.
One of Christie's most long-lived characters, he has appeared in the pages of more than 30 novels, 50 short stories and one play.
But now, in his latest incarnation, the famous Belgian crime solver returns to the silver screen in actor/director Kenneth Branagh's remake of Murder on the Orient Express. The film is the fourth adaptation of Christie's novel, following the 1974 film, a 2001 TV movie and a 2010 episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot.
Branagh plays Poirot himself and is no stranger to the director's chair.
The Irishman has helmed several big-screen adaptations of Shakespeare plays, directed the first Thor film for Marvel and, more recently, directed Disney's live-action remake of Cinderella.
He relished the opportunity to retell Christie's 84-year-old story, telling ABC News: "I'm involved in a lot of Shakespeare and why do that again? Well, because the world has changed and great writing or great stories resonate with what the atmosphere is right now".
Branagh is supported by an all-star cast including Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe and Josh Gad. Dench and Branagh have worked together many times before and were starring together in a West End production of Shakespeare's when he pitched the film to her.
As the Oscar winner told The Daily Telegraph, playing Princess Dragomiroff was "hugely good fun".
"And whereas I was in almost every shot in Victoria and Abdul, I was in very few shots (in Murder on the Orient Express)," Dench said.
"I just had a nice couple of dogs to deal with and a lot of jewels to wear."
It was Dench who helped Branagh attract such a star-studded ensemble to the project, which is co-produced by Ridley Scott and has a screenplay written by Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049).
"Ken Branagh (is) someone I have always been interested in and it had an incredible cast already. The idea of working with all these people in an ensemble movie really appealed to me," Willem Dafoe told The Daily Telegraph.
As the classic story goes, what starts out as a lavish train ride through Europe quickly unfolds into a stylish and suspenseful mystery when businessman Ratchett (Depp) is murdered in the compartment next to Poirot.
When the train is stranded in an avalanche, it is the perfect opportunity for the moustachioed detective to interrogate the remaining strangers to deduce who the murderer is before he or she strikes again.
Dafoe also revealed that the cast would play their own murder mystery game on their weekends off together.
"We would play a game called Werewolf, which is kind of a role-play thing: who in the room killed who? And it was just great fun," he said.
"Some people were very serious about it, some were goofy and would kind of contradict their professional personas. But there weren't any jerks. Can I say that? Even Derek Jacobi (who plays Edward Masterman) came to play."
Murder on the Orient Express opens in cinemas on Thursday.
STARS: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Kenneth Branagh (main photo), Josh Gad, Judi Dench (above).
DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh
REVIEWER'S LAST WORD: Director and star Kenneth Branagh has assembled a top-notch cast for this stylish remake of author Agatha Christie's classic murder mystery.