Murder on the Orient Express
Screenplay by: Michael Green
Based upon the Novel by: Agatha Christie
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: 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
Run Time: 115 Min
2 1/2 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
This film is about the detective Hercule Poirot and his train ride into hell. Actually, that might make for a more pleasing introduction, but it doesn’t really fit here. Poirot isn’t the sort of character the underworld would have their sights on. That aside, he’s just short of irritating, as a matter-of-fact. His mustache is way over the top and I couldn’t help but think of Peter Seller’s incredible ‘Inspector Clouseau’ when he spoke. The comparison didn’t help matters as I often found myself drifting and wishing I was watching a Seller’s classics instead. They entertained me much more. Also, if you’ve read the book this is based on or seen the original film, you might not want to grab a seat on this train as there’s no station it could pull into that you haven’t already dropped your bags. It’s really that simple. It’s ‘Clue’ (the mystery, thriller based on the popular game), on a train only it’s not as much fun.
Poirot tells is that he’s good at what he does because he always sees things as they should be. This is both a blessing and a curse for him as he can’t so much as have a conversation with somewhat that he isn’t sniffing out their every flaw. Having the shade his mustache affords him for cover and being the straightforward man, he is, he also has no trouble pointing these flaws out to the person on the opposite side of his spyglass. When Poirot lands on the train he quickly begins meeting his fellow passengers. All of them open up to him who is, as I mentioned, sizing them up while conversing with them. His character isn’t set up anymore beyond this. You know he’s a detective but what you don’t understand is why you need other characters literally telling you that for the entire opening of the film. As far as the setup, not much is known about any of the other characters in the film either, which is a big loss with a cast such as this. The elements are in place for this to be a massive success but it fails to deliver which ultimately falls on Branagh’s shoulders. I think most of his attention went to his acting instead of on the rest of the film.
All in all, the actors did a fine job portraying their characters but as the story moves forward you don’t find them very memorable. They remain nothing more than background in a mystery that you have already solved, except for the puzzle in your head that’s still unworking. It stares up at your asking why have the amazing cast if you’re not going to use them better? I digress. My original point is that it is quite obvious who the killer is. I won’t tell you but when our master detective finds the victim, the ‘whodunit’ of it all isn’t too hard to figure out. For me, this meant the film wasn’t as engaging as I had hoped it would be. Maybe I expected too much. I’ve enjoyed most of Kenneth Branagh’s work but this one misses the mark. I’m all for interesting camera angles but some overhead shots seemed unnecessary and useless. He continued using perplexing and erratic camerawork throughout which didn’t win him any favors, however, the performances and music might make it worth the trip for you. There is a slight hint that there could be another film with Poirot on the way so, if that’s the case, I hope he learns from his mistakes with this one.
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