Who doesn’t have a taste for murder mysteries? It’s all about the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, and the why’s? Revolving around a certain case that needs to be discovered. Most fans of this kind of genre might think this will be like Clue. We haven’t really seen that many of them in a while to this level. But with director Kenneth Branagh’s take on the classic Murder on the Orient Express, maybe we should take a step back.
A lavish trip through Europe quickly unfolds into a race against time to solve a murder aboard a train. Everyone’s a suspect when Detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) arrives to interrogate all passengers and search for clues before the killer can strike again.
Now, did I read Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel? Nope, but I do know it’s her most popular book she ever wrote. This also serves as a remake of the 1974 Sidney Lumet film starring Albert Finney. Or take television series Agatha Christie’s Poirot with David Suchet, where it lasted 13 series in its run. But I was honestly anticipating this more than others when this came out. The first trailer was the only one I watch because I didn’t want to know what was gonna happen until it comes out. There have been many adaptations that came from the source material, and it seemed like a good idea to remake this. And if I had to be honest, this version of Murder on the Orient Express turned out to be a bore in the long run.
The film itself has a terrific cast featuring Penélope Cruz (Pilar Estravados), Willem Dafoe (Gerhard Hardman), Judi Dench (Princess Dragomiroff), Johnny Depp (Edward Ratchett), Josh Gad (Hector MacQueen), Derek Jacobi (Edward Masterman), Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr. (Dr. Arbuthnot), Michelle Pfeiffer (Caroline Hubbard), Daisy Ridley (Mary Debenham) and many others.
Branagh as the main role of Hercule Poirot very much gave the film a good presence. He may seem like an annoying Detective, but when it comes to figuring out his way around some kind of crime. And he’s sporting the sickest mustache in a film. And his direction is well-handled with only one setting, that of the train, making feel claustrophobic in the way scenes are filmed. Maybe it’s because Branagh is a capable direction sometimes, he’s always done a fine job with how he captures certain scenes all shot in 65mm. All from the gorgeous production design, costume design, and the cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos are really outstanding.
For a movie surrounding what’s supposed to be a mystery, nothing was too suspenseful. With a star-studded cast like this, almost half of them really felt wasted with what they’re given. There are even moments where they just became apparent in the background and don’t do that much. Besides Branagh, there wasn’t exactly someone who stood out and stole a particular scene anywhere. Most of the film’s tone isn’t that well-balanced as it leans towards a darker story in the way it was possible wanting it to be.
And since I went into the film cold, knowing nothing about what happened in the book, the outcome during the climax into who committed the murder didn’t work for me and it’s just played out as pretty dumb.
Sadly, Murder on the Orient Express just wasn’t that satisfying. Nothing left me that impressed with what was happening once it ended. Wanting to get to that old-fashioned mystery, instead just wouldn’t do that convincingly. Fox has already made plans for the sequel, Death on the Nile, which I do hope it turns out to be better (and they just had to reference that a sequel is coming). For people who aren’t that familiar with the story might find some enjoyment with this. But it wasn’t all the way there for me.
Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express does have a stylish flair and a stunning ensemble, but it doesn’t capture the sense of tension of Agatha Christie is this a disappointing whodunit mystery.