There’s nothing to absolutely hate about Murder on the Orient Express. There’s also nothing to love about this who-done-it murder-mystery. When Kenneth Branagh decided to not only direct but also play the part of our detective, Hercule Poirot, the foundation seemed promising. Add an entire list of A- and B-list actors (you can view them here), and you’ve got yourself a bit of steam behind this hype train.
What drew me to Orient Express wasn’t just Branagh’s killer mustache but the design. There’s a very classic feel from the environments to the wardrobes. I enjoyed being placed into a time period that wasn’t modern. From the buttons on a conductor’s coat to the commotion inside of a bakery in Istanbul, the aesthetics are pleasing to the eyes and ears. It only helps that Hercule (Branagh) is given a unique characteristic: he’s very meticulous, even going as far as to make sure his two eggs for breakfast are perfectly aligned and round.
What hinders the film is its second act, which drags through the mud and is simply boring. The fast pace of the first act slows down once all our potential murderers are introduced and _______ dies (c’mon, you think I’m gonna tell you who dies?). The glaring difference in pace only magnified the film’s issues. We then get forced into a series of one-on-one interviews where Poirot vets many passengers. This should be the most fun we’ll have with Orient Express, as the film is set-up that way, but instead we are subjected to an uninspiring attempt at conjuring tension.
I’m well-aware of Branagh shining brightest, so the supporting cast should have been the glue to this film. Unfortunately, Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad — they’re all bound by a poor screenplay by Michael Green. A flurry of safe dialogue that never gives actors opportunities to shine only bogged down many moments. Not even veteran actor Willem Dafoe can save the film towards the end, as Orient Express feels like it’s grasping at straws as it nears the finish line.
Plain and simple, the supporting cast was wasted. An all-star group which looked great on paper failed to resonate on-screen, which surprised me.
I also wish the film would give its audience more reason to try and solve the murder. That’s the entire point of a who-done-it, no? It defeats the purpose when Branagh is practically telling me how to think and react. I shouldn’t feel bored during the meat and potatoes portion of a film. Even the climax felt rushed and without weight.
The premise remained promising throughout, which made me shake my head. The material is there, and this isn’t Branagh’s first rodeo, so what gives? Extract the fluff from the middle and feeling of going through the motions for nearly two hours, and maybe the end product fares better.
This is yet another case of high-budget/low-output, and it stinks. There’s a lot going for Murder on the Orient Express, but this is a train better left at the platform.
I was invited to a press screening for purposes of this review thanks in large part to Allied Integrated Marketing and 20th Century Fox. ❤
Murder on the Orient Express is rated PG-13, runs 1 hour and 54 minutes and opens in theaters on Nov. 10, 2017.