2017 Awards Profile: Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ From 20th Century Fox

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murder on the orient express

Welcome to the 2017 Awards Profile series, where we talk about high- and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year. We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday and Wednesday to talk about their potential. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

FILM: “Murder on the Orient Express”
PRODUCERS: Kenneth Branagh, Mark Gordon, Judy Hofflund, Simon Kinberg, Michael Schaefer, Ridley Scott, Aditya Sood
DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh
WRITER: Michael Green (based on the novel by Agatha Christie)
CAST: Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Kenneth Branagh, Lucy Boynton, Willem Dafoe, Olivia Colman, Judi Dench

SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): A lavish train ride through Europe quickly unfolds into the thrilling mystery of thirteen strangers stranded on a train, where everyone’s a suspect. One man must race against time to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.

WHY IT MAY SUCCEED:

Writer and director Kenneth Branagh knows how to create films that are lush and visually appealing. He also knows how to work with big names in Hollywood. Most of his films have featured star-studded casts. They are frequently period or fantasy creations, with lavish sets and detailed costuming and intricate plots. Branagh has been nominated for five Academy Awards so far in his career. The first two came for the film “Henry V,” which earned him nominations for Lead Actor and Director. He has also been nominated for a Live Action Short Film, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor in different years.

With the remake of “Murder on the Orient Express,” Branagh gives us an updated look at a decades-old tale. Just as the original featured an all-star cast of Who’s Who celebrities, this new film will attempt to capture some of the original magic for today’s audience.

This is a story that will no doubt lure audiences en masse. Murder mysteries are easily marketable to crowds, and this particular tale is one many have heard, but have probably forgotten the details of. Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot was always a fun literary character, and watching Branagh bring him back to life while surrounded by the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley and Judi Dench will be a treat.

The original film received six Academy Award nominations in 1974. Ingrid Bergman won Best Supporting Actress for the role that will be taken over by Penelope Cruz. While past history doesn’t necessarily translate into present-day success, it does establish that this is a story that could, once again, be highly regarded by the Academy. After all, remakes such as “True Grit,” “The Departed,” and even “The Ten Commandments” were not hampered by their predecessors.

Add to all of that the fact that this is a high-profile film which will undoubtedly feature enviable costuming, gorgeous sets and some fun cinematography in the confined spaces of the so named Orient Express, and this will certainly be a player for below-the-line categories.

And a baity release date of Nov. 10 probably won’t hurt either.

WHY IT MAY NOT SUCCEED:

While remakes are sometimes successful in awards season, they often are not. Consequently, most remakes wind up feeling gratuitous and self-indulgent. Is “Murder on the Orient Express” a story begging to be retold? Perhaps not. Directed by five-time Oscar nominee Sidney Lumet, it starred Albert Finney, Vanessa Redgrave, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery and more. Even casual viewers of classic film are generally familiar with this, whether or not they have seen it.

Further, Ingrid Bergman’s Best Supporting Actress win is not the best barometer for the original film’s overall reception. It is not a highly regarded winning performance and the Academy’s selection of Bergman over some of her competitors has always been questionable. Because of that, Academy members may watch these new performances with a more careful eye.

Overall, the biggest hurdle “Murder on the Orient Express (2017)” faces is simply the fact that it is a remake. And perhaps some Johnny Depp fatigue, too.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director – Kenneth Branagh
  • Actor in a Leading Role – Kenneth Branagh
  • Actress in a Supporting Role – Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench
  • Actor in a Supporting Role – Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad
  • Adapted Screenplay – Michael Green
  • Original Score – Patrick Doyle
  • Production Design – Jim Clay
  • Costume Design – Alexandra Byrne
  • Film Editing – Mick Audsley

What do you think of “Murder on the Orient Express”?
Are you looking forward to it, or do you think it’s another unnecessary remake? Comment below or join the message boards!