Kenneth Branagh dials back some of the excesses that made his 2017 remake of the classic Agatha Christie tale Murder on the Orient Express such a misfire.  In this (marginally) better shot at one of Christie’s top whodunits, the Belgian supersleuth with all the facial furniture must find the murderer of a young heiress (a bland Gal Gadot) while traveling along the ancient waterway in a glamorous river steamer.

The director again casts himself as Poirot (giving the character new depth) because he’s Kenneth Branagh and he can do anything (except, apparently, make Gal Gadot interesting). 

On the plus side, Branagh loves this material, and it shows. It looks great; the cinematography’s terrific as are the set and costume design. Branagh’s version also sports far more diversity than the source material ever dreamt of. The star-studded cast includes Annette Bening, Tom Bateman, Letitia Wright, Sophie Okonedo, and a really good Russell Brand.

Bottom line: A a well-crafted but not-much-fun cinematic confection that’s worth seeing despite the fact that Agatha’s stories have already been expertly adapted. More than once. Better than Express but still unable to escape the “unnecessary” label. (127 min)