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Soundtrack review: Murder on the Orient Express (Patrick Doyle – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Murder on the Orient Express (Patrick Doyle – 2017)



“Murder on the Orient Express” is a 2017 mystery film directed by Kenneth Branagh. The screenplay by Michael Green is based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie. The film stars Branagh as Hercule Poirot, with Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley in supporting roles. n the 1930s Europe, famed detective Hercule Poirot boards the legendary Orient Express for a small break in between cases. While on board, he meets an interesting assortment of characters. One fellow passenger, Samuel Ratchett, implores Mr. Poirot to be his personal bodyguard while on the train as he fears for his well-being, though Poirot respectfully declines. The next morning, Ratchett is found stabbed to death. With the train halted due to snow build up on the tracks, and with the evidence and suspects piling up, Poirot finds himself diving into a case that could be his biggest yet.

Kenneth Branagh, classical British literature adaptation, this means only one composer could have written the score: Patrick Doyle, the musical half of the dramatic Branagh. I am always, always up for a score from him for a movie like this. It also means expectations are very high since almost every score coming from one of their collaborations over the past 30 years has been brilliant. “The wailing well” opens the score with a frantic string and ethnic percussion sound that make me think of Hans Zimmer’s “Sherlock Holmes” scores. The ethnic element is subtle but present give that the journey of the Orient Express reaches more countries. I like the Oriental inserts that Doyle weaves into the fabric of his score as they echo back to one of my favourite scores of his, “A little princess”.

I like the fresh and delightful melodic stride of this score; the first few cues are rich and joyful orchestral pieces that remind me why I love Patrick Doyle’s music so much. There is that unmistakable sense of adventure and excitement in the music that describes what happens before the murder. The composer then tones down the excitement and turns up the mystery and the suspense. The music stays meaningful and captivating on its own no matter the tone; I feel as if I am reading an Agatha Christie murder mystery and my moods with every turn of the page are described through piano, strings and horns, here subtle, there louder. Patrick Doyle wrote the perfect score for a story like this and as always in his case, the music is simply beautiful no matter how or when I listen to it. He has a way for writing warm, romantic orchestral cues that just melt me up inside. The way he combines piano and cello sometimes like in “The Armstrong case” is elegant and charming like you rarely hear these days.

“Murder on the Orient Express” is a score as gripping and addictive as the mystery it was written for. Patrick Doyle brings al his classical tools and creates a musical canvas that is both subtle and meaningful, both romantic and tense. I hope him and Branagh keep doing movies together for a long time because there is a special place reserved for them in the history of film music. Enjoy another beautiful gem from Patrick Doyle; you know what you get when you listen to his music.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 38 / 57

Album excellence: 67%

The Wailing Wall
The Orient Express
Twelve Stab Wounds
The Armstrong Case
Mrs. Hubbard
This is True
Ma Katherine
It Is Time
Never Forget – Michelle Pfeiffer
Orient Express Suite

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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