Murder on the Orient Express (2017) 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

Train-ed Killers

If there’s justification for another screen adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, it’s this update’s cinematography. With the eye of cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos and direction of Kenneth Brannagh, the remake bathes the screen in luxury. It looks expensive, a fine fit for a story of posh characters.

There’s class here. Murder on the Orient Express does what a novel cannot and although structured similarly to the mystery novel, even the most descriptive writing cannot evoke the feelings of this camera. Dizzying overhead views; side-on master shots; crane angles teetering over a bridge; and Glamorous views of the cast, deepened by the perspective of a claustrophobic train car. Brannagh and company find ways to make standard conversation look palatial. That standard doesn’t cease.

Brannagh and company find ways to make standard conversation look luxurious

Murder on the Orient Express is a fancy, handsome, and classy film do over. It’s fast in pace and always high on class. From the train to the costumes, the aesthetics are unmovable. Set in the mountains, persistent snowfall adds a gentle calm to the exteriors. That’s in contrast to the often panicked interiors.

If this all comes across as surface level, it is. There’s intelligence in the script and in the editing. Characters sweep into the movie at full bore, connecting mostly in passing glimmers, if enough to establish their presence. It’s a packed cast. Everyone has a moment, even if their oxygen is immediately sucked away for another.

At the center is Brannagh himself, super sleuth with super ‘stache, staging a classic whodunit many already know the outcome to. As Herule Poirot, Brannagh’s swift, mechanical deductions become the center of Murder on the Orient Express. That’s proper. As the runtime moves forward, he’ll lure character details out of the key players, turning off the rudeness of a blistering Judi Dench, and drowning the niceties of Daisy Ridley. Even knowing the outcome, it’s fascinating to watch.

Murder on the Orient Express delights in the chance to exist. A significance is placed on staging and looks, not without their purpose, if leaving a question of why. That comes at the end. Brannagh and Fox seem set to whisk away Poirot into another “cinematic universe” of sorts, planning to push through Christie’s source novels in a torrent of sequels. Maybe this works, maybe it won’t, but if each maintains the prettiness of Murder on the Orient Express, then at least Poirot’s detective work will always be around to look at.

Video (4K UHD)

Brannagh’s decision to shot on 65mm and finish at 4K matches the opulence of the story. On UHD then, the match is perfect. With a certain photographic intensity, close-ups ramp up sharpness and lure out substantial levels of texture. Facial definition reaches a tremendous peak. Stitches in clothing appear without issue.

Location, location, location too. Beginning with rocky concrete walls (resolved down to lingering sand) and passing into beautiful mountains, Murder on the Orient Express displays these sights with purity. Fine grain layers over the image, never a bother, and preserved by this transfer.

Color matters too. Even in the frosted mountains where blues seep in extensively, the loss of all primaries is rare. Costumes develop characters, giving them specific tones and hues, all varied. The train itself boasts a deep red wood interior, shining on this disc.

If there’s a lapse, it’s HDR effects. While sunsets add some dazzle and the occasional round of thick contrast appears, Murder on the Orient Express misses the chance to burst free. Candle flames listlessly burn and the snow doesn’t produce any enriched brightness. Even black levels fade for a muted look, intentional to the production. Everything else stands out there, and the 4K source is well utilized.

Video (Blu-ray)

Excellent resolution creates a rather startling Blu-ray presentation, rich in fine detail and fidelity. Close-ups resolve exquisite texture. Exteriors pose no issue, not even aliasing to give credit to this 4K downconversion.

Pleasing colors run across the screen, nicely varied with satisfying depth. Black levels slack off as they do on the current gen format, but contrast perks up enough to make up the difference. It’s notable that snow often lacks the blue-ish tinge of the UHD, offering a touch more vibrancy when the sun reflects that surface.

Audio

Primarily a proponent of the front soundstage, Murder on the Orient Express explores the stereo channels with frequency. Dialog slips away from the center for some precise tracking, if somewhat restricted in terms of space.

Much of the sonic energy comes from the train, which when on the move, rattles and rumbles in the soundstage. Ambiance is always high if possible, including winds whipping around the region. As a highlight, the avalanche slams down hard on the low-end, pushing the snow through the available channels. When in the camera, train effects pan as needed, and the engine will catch the LFE too. There’s energy here.

Extras

The UHD holds a commentary by Kenneth Brannagh and screenplay writer Michael Green. That’s also on the Blu-ray, as are the remaining extras. A fine look at Agatha Christie uses vintage interviews to fill space between comments from others, from Christie’s family members to the cast & crew. It’s a 19-minute feature hardly lacking in detail.

Hercule Poirot earns his own bonus, detailing the character and his adventures for nine minutes. Unusual Suspects unnecessarily splits into three parts, following the various cabin members of the Orient Express plus their actors. The Art of Murder focuses on style and character, a somewhat redundant piece. All Aboard looks at the location and difficulties in shooting 65mm, a must watch for celluloid defenders. This one goes on for 16-minutes. Thirteen deleted scenes and a short feature on the score finish this one off.

  • Video (4K UHD)
  • Video (Blu-ray)
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Murder on the Orient Express doesn’t need another screen adaptation, but Kenneth Brannagh’s style and direction mesh into a visibly gorgeous film.

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