Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express - #OrientExpressMovie

MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: November 10, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by: Michael Green
Based upon the Novel by: Agatha Christie
Produced by: Ridley Scott, Mark Gordon, Simon Kinberg, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund, Michael Schaefer
Cast: Tom Bateman, Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Marwan Kenzari, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS Official Channels: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
What starts out as a lavish train ride through Europe quickly unfolds into one of the most stylish, suspenseful and thrilling mysteries ever told. From the novel by best-selling author Agatha Christie, "Murder on the Orient Express" tells the tale 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. Kenneth Branagh directs and leads an all-star cast including Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley and Josh Gad.

It is rare to see an ensemble cast with all “A-list” stars. Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley, and Kenneth Branagh as the famed Hercule Poirot, all star in this week’s Murder on the Orient Express. Unfortunately, the hype was more than the film could bear. While I appreciated some of Murder, this latest re-telling of Agatha Christie’s novel falls apart in the details.  

The concept was good.  We haven’t seen Hercule Poirot on screen in a while.  Every version of Poirot (portrayed Albert Finney, Alfred Molina, David Suchet) has been  entertaining.  Agatha Christie knew how to write suspense novels.  They translate well to screen. And, while Murder wasn’t my favorite, I would enjoy more Agatha Christie movies made from the novels.

The latest Poirot, Branagh, doesn’t disappoint.  Branagh isn’t one of the problems I had with Murder. Although this version of Poirot takes some liberties with the traditional character aspects of Hercule Poirot, Branagh plays the role charming and with a rapier wit.  Also, Branagh wears a mustache like he’s been wearing one his whole life.  I very much appreciated the subtle humor of the role.  

I didn’t enjoy that none of the other actors in the ensemble were given any development.  It seems wasteful to have such a feast of accomplished actors and not use them to their fullest potential.  The two-hour run time should have flown-by.  The audience should have been struggling to keep-up.  It could have been a “don’t leave your seat for fear of missing something” movie, and it wasn’t. The plot moves at a snail’s pace, and I blame that on the under use of the brilliant cast. The likes of Michelle Pfeiffer and Judi Dench deserve to be painted as more than one dimensional characters.  Other than Branagh, the only other stand-out in the cast was Tom Bateman (as Bouc).  I appreciated the earnest mischievousness with which Bateman played his role. I was glad that Bateman had decent screen-time.   

I also minded that I didn’t feel engaged in the cat and mouse of the plot.  Crime/mystery/suspense films are my favorite.  They are also my favorite novels.  But I like to feel engaged in the story; I like to feel like I could solve the mystery myself if I were paying close enough attention.  Murder doesn’t allow for any of that.  There is no smoking gun to be discovered by the audience. All of the clues are something that occur only in Poirot’s recollection or in some back story that the audience isn’t privy to, until Poirot is solving the mystery.

Murder is beautiful to behold.  The sets were impeccable.  The train looked luxurious. The outside scenery shots were beautiful.  The costuming was flawless.  No detail was spared in making Murder look authentic. The production design was so well done, that I found myself entertained by the scenery when the plot stalled.  But, a movie needs to be more than pretty.  

I would wait for Murder to be available on some at-home video format before endeavoring to watch it.  It could have been spectacular, but it isn’t.  Murder is pretty to watch, but not pretty enough to justify the two-hour run time.  If you’re still interested in watching Murder on the Orient Express in theaters, it opens everywhere this Friday.  

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