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Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp
Writing Credits:
Michael Green

When a murder occurs on a train, celebrated detective Hercule Poirot attempts to solve the case.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$28,681,472 on 3341 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English Dolby Atmos
English Descriptive Audio 5.1
Castillian DYS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
German DTS 5.1
Italian DTS 5.1
Czech Dolby 5.1
Polish Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 2/27/2018
• Audio Commentary with Director/Actor Kenneth Branagh and Screenwriter Michael Green
• “Agatha Christie: An Intimate Portrait” Featurette
• “Let’s Talk About Hercule Poirot” Featurette
• “Unusual Suspects” Featurettes
• “The Art of Murder” Featurette
• “All Aboard” Featurette
• “Music of Murder” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Gallery
• Trailers
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Murder on the Orient Express [4K UHD] (2017)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 4, 2018)

Back when I reviewed Murder on the Orient Express in 2004, I noted that the 1974 film stood as the only big-screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s tale. This remained the case until 2017, as that year brought us another cinematic rendition of the mystery.

Set in 1934, after legendary detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) solves a mystery in Jerusalem, he decides to take a short vacation. However, before he can indulge himself, Poirot finds himself called to London to work on another case, and he travels via a luxurious train known as the “Orient Express”.

Along the trek, an avalanche forces the Express to pause its journey. While delayed, a murder takes place on the train, and Poirot attempts to solve this crime.

When we compare the 2017 Express with Sidney Lumet’s 1974 version, we find a lot of similarities. Of course, both share the same plot and many of the same characters, and the two embrace the “all-star cast” concept.

I’d lean toward the 1974 film as the one with the “more all-star” set of actors, but that might just be age bias, as that conglomeration of performers leaned closer to “classic Hollywood”. Without question, the 2017 Express offers a terrific cast, as in addition to Branagh, we find talents such as Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe and many others.

Despite these commonalities, the two versions of Express differ in one notable way: tone. While the Lumet edition opted for a fairly light, frisky vibe, Branagh’s take leans more toward a dark, serious impression.

Perhaps I should regard this as an improvement over the 1974 film. After all, Express comes replete with death, violence and tragedy, so I probably should view Branagh’s more dramatic approach as preferable.

But I don’t, as I think the story works better when presented as more of fun “whodunnit” than as a grim view of mankind.

Maybe that last comment overstates the bleakness of the tone found in the 2017’s Express, as I don’t want to paint it as Se7en on a Train”. Still, it opts for a dour, somewhat depressing approach to the material that doesn’t offer the expected entertainment.

I think that comes from the lack of zest that we get from Poirot’s investigation. Usually a movie like this gives the audience the chance to follow along with the detective’s pursuit and formulate our own theories, some of which occurs here.

However, Poirot’s sleuthing never becomes especially engaging, and the attempts to locate the culprit(s) fail to really excite. Express feels more like a dreary slog than a lively mystery.

Within this construct, the actors do fine, even though I can’t claim any add much to the proceedings – largely due to that grim overtone. With so many characters involved, we don’t get to know any of them well, and the somber manner in which the film treats them makes it ever harder to differentiate among them or derive entertainment from the performances.

The 1974 Express was a rare movie that veered toward hamminess and camp in a satisfying way, partly because it gave the thinly-written characters room to make an impact. We didn’t know much about the parts but we could at least glom onto general notions, largely due to the vivid performances from the actors.

Again, Branagh’s Express clearly portrays the events in a more realistic manner, but this approach doesn’t work for Christie’s story. Given the nature of the plot and the vague nature of the characters, the realism doesn’t satisfy, and the absence of the usual “thrill of the hunt” becomes more of an issue.

Branagh’s Express remains a wholly professional affair, but it simply takes itself too seriously. Without a real sense of verve or excitement, this becomes a mystery that lacks much to involve the viewer.

The Disc Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus

Murder on the Orient Express appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Shot on 65mm film, the image excelled.

Sharpness worked well, as the movie offered excellent delineation. Virtually no softness manifested during this accurate presentation, and fine detail appeared superb.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred. In addition, I saw no signs of edge haloes or print flaws either.

Even with its period setting, Express opted for a predictable teal and orange palette. While those choices felt trite, the Blu-ray reproduced them as intended, and the 4K’s HDR brought out vivid tones.

Blacks looked deep and rich, and low-light elements boasted good clarity, with stellar contrast and pure whites. Everything about this image dazzled.

Due to the story’s character focus, I didn’t expect much from the film’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack, but I found a fairly engaging mix. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, most of the movie focused on music and general ambience, and those domains provided a nice sense of the material.

A few more dynamic sequences added zest to the proceedings, most of which concentrated on the movement of the train. These gave the soundscape a nice sense of place and setting, all of which brought out useful material – and the avalanche boasted a terrific impact as well.

Audio quality worked nicely. Speech seemed natural and concise, while music was warm and full.

Effects showed fine clarity and impact, with deep low-end as appropriate. I felt pleased with this well-executed soundtrack.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? The 4K’s Dolby Atmos track offered a bit more involvement and punch compared to the BD’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio.

In addition, the 4K delivered improved definition, blacks, colors and contrast. On its own, the BD looked great, but the 4K managed to top it.

Only one extra appears on the 4K disc itself: an audio commentary from actor/director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/characters as well as the adaptation of the source, sets and locations, cast and performances, shooting 65mm and cinematography, editing, music, and connected domains.

Expect a lively chat, as Branagh and Green deliver a spirited affair. They occasionally veer too much into happy talk, but they move along the track at a good rate and offer more than enough useful material along the way.

The package includes a Blu-ray copy, and that’s where we get the rest of the extras. 13 Deleted Scenes run a total of 16 minutes, 40 seconds.

These tend to focus on character elements, and that makes some of them valuable, as they expand the underdeveloped roles. I don’t know how well they would’ve fit into the final product, but I could see a few as useful additions to the narrative.

We can view the scenes with or without commentary from Branagh and Green. They tell us about the sequences and usually let us know why these segments got the boot. Their notes add value.

A few featurettes fill out the set, and these open with Agatha Christie: An Intimate Portrait. It runs 19 minutes, three seconds and includes info from Green, Branagh, Christie’s grandson Mathew Prichard, historian Dr. John Curran, authors Anthony Horowitz and Sophie Hannah, executive producer James Prichard, and actor Johnny Depp. We also get some archival recordings of Christie herself.

As the title implies, we learn a little about Christie’s life and career, with an emphasis on Express. Mostly, though, “Portrait” praises Christie and her work, so it doesn’t give us a ton of real information.

During the nine-minute, 54-second Let’s Talk About Hercule Poirot, we hear from Hannah, Mathew Prichard, Curran, Branagh, Horowitz, James Prichard, Green, actor Daisy Ridley and more archival recordings of Christie. “Talk” offers data about the movie’s lead character. It proves to be reasonably engaging.

Three separate featurettes under Unusual Suspects add up to a total of 17 minutes, 53 seconds. Across these, we hear from Branagh, Depp, Ridley, Hannah, Green, executive producer Aditya Sood, and actors Derek Jacobi, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sergei Polunin, Lucy Boynton, Willem Dafoe, Tom Bateman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Marwan Kenzari, Leslie Odom Jr., and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo.

The “Suspects” clips examine cast, characters and performances. These clips offer a few insights but they mostly pursue promotional goals.

With The Art of Murder, we find a 16-minute, 23-second show that includes info from Sood, Green, Branagh, Mathew Prichard, James Prichard, Boynton, Jacobi, Dafoe, Depp, Gad, Dench, Odom, Pfeiffer, production designer Jim Clay, executive producer Matthew Jenkins, train consultant Tim Parkin, special effects supervisor David Watkins, costume designer Alexandra Byrne, key textile artist Steven Gell, and supervising costume prop modeler Naomi Critcher.

“Murder” offers some basics about the project’s path to the screen before it gets into production design, sets/locations, the recreation of the titular train and costumes. Like other shows, it comes with too much hyperbole, but it still delivers positive info about sets and costumes.

All Aboard takes up 16 minutes, 35 seconds and features Branagh, Depp, Jenkins, Gad, James Prichard, Clay, Sood, Dench, Odom, Horowitz, Hannah, Mathew Prichard, Cruz, Dafoe, Ridley, steadicam operator Stamos Triantafyllos, and stunt coordinator James O’Donnell. This one views shooting on 65mm film, sets, various effects, stunts/action, and story elements. Much of “Aboard” works pretty well and gives us a bit more material to digest.

Finally, Music of Murder goes for seven minutes, 31 seconds and supplies remarks from composer Patrick Doyle. As expected, he delivers thoughts about his score in this short but informative reel.

In addition to two trailers, the disc completes with a Gallery that offers 36 photos from the production. Though these are pretty good images, the presentation loses points as the “windowboxed” pictures don’t fill the screen’s available space.

A strong cast adds life to Murder on the Orient Express, but the end product comes across as too somber. The film lacks much to make its inherent mystery compelling, so it tends to drag. The 4K UHD offers excellent visuals along with strong audio and a largely positive package of bonus features. While I’m not wild about the movie, I feel delighted with the terrific quality of this top-notch 4K UHD disc.

To rate this film visit the prior review of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main