A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man's race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.
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Throughout the twentieth century, Agatha Christie wrote dozens of mystery novels. Many of those books have been turned into movies. And of all of the Agatha Christie works that have been made into movie, Murder on the Orient Express
is one of them.
Murder on the Orient Express
sees superdetective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh from Dunkirk
) riding the Orient Express train on his way to another case. When one of the fellow passengers, a mysterious man named Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp from Black Mass
) is murdered, Poirot springs into action to uncover the identity of the murderer. And there is no shortage of suspects on the luxury locomotive.
The script for Murder on the Orient Express
was adapted for the screen by Michael Green (Logan
, Blade Runner 2049
), and the broad strokes of the story are pretty faithful - our hero Poirot must pick a killer out of a group of suspects before the train gets to its destination. Director Branagh plays up the retro/vintage vibe of the narrative, leaning fully into the melodrama and camp of the plot. The mystery is unraveled slowly and deliberately, the activities interrupted every now and again by stunning visuals of the train steaming through snow-covered mountains and dark, ominous tunnels. Unfortunately, all of the silly pomp and technical mastery does not translate into fun.
Although it seeps with the usual Agatha Christie ingenuity, Murder on the Orient Express
is a tedious adaptation. As impressive as the filmmaking technique is, the execution is long-winded and dry, to the point where the audience just wants to solve the mystery itself so that they can go home. Sure, it gets there on its own, and it does (SPOILER KINDA) have the same surprising ending as the book, but it's a needlessly long journey.
As far as modern mysteries go, Murder on the Orient Express
is a tired one, partially because it's supposed to be a throwback to a simpler time, but mostly because there's nothing there to really keep the audience on its toes. As a cinematic Agatha Christie adaptation, there are way better ones. As a popcorn movie, it's got enough star power and technical merit to pass, so if that's your thing, go for it.
Like most of Agatha Christie's stories, Murder on the Orient Express
leans heavily upon its colorful cast of characters, and Branagh has a plethora of acting talent at his disposal in this ensemble. To be clear, Murder of the Orient Express
is obviously Poirot's movie, and Branagh does not let anyone else shine brighter than himself, but the list of supporting players is very notable, so let's just rattle them off. In addition to Depp, there's Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens
), Leslie Odom Jr. (Red Tails
), Penélope Cruz (The Counsellor
), Josh Gad (Jobs
), Lucy Boynton (Sing Street
), Michelle Pfeiffer (mother!
), Judi Dench (Skyfall
), Olivia Coleman (The Lobster
), Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project
), Derek Jacobi (Effie Gray
), and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (The Magnificent Seven
), among others. Again, none of these fine actors really gets a chance to overshadow Branagh's lead, but all of them turn their roles, however small, into close-up worthy performances.
I'm not sure if this should go under costuming or makeup (or even production design), but the most memorable aspect of Murder on the Orient Express
is Hercule Poirot's moustache. Branagh wears a sort of horizontal walrus style of facial hair, a straight-across moustache with a completely vertical soul patch to match. It's quite impressive, to the point where the movie makes a joke out of it by having Poirot sleep in a plastic moustache guard. Other characters attempt moustaches, but when put up next to Branagh's wooly masterpiece, that's all they are: attempts. Even Johnny Depp's pencil-thin lip-rider pales in comparison. Branagh's moustache would be considered distracting even if Murder on the Orient Express
were a better movie from which it could distract. As it is, Branagh's facial hair is the highlight.