By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Murder on the Orient Express is little more than a run-of-the-mill whodunit. It takes itself way too seriously and doesn’t sell itself as a classic Agatha Christie tale. For its fantastic all star cast, it falls surprisingly flat.
Based on the novel by Agatha Christie, Detective Hercules Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) must solve a murder mystery on the Orient Express train after one of its passengers is brutally butchered.
It’s certainly been a disappointing weekend at the cinema. Like the disastrous Suburbicon, Orient Express fails to live up to the hype of its trailer which promised a lighter and more playful murder mystery – an Agatha Christie murder mystery. Kenneth Branagh’s third version of Murder on the Orient Express is very sombre, and even boring at times.
The film even opens at the Jerusalem ‘Wailing Wall’ – talk about a grim start. The only ounce of humour here comes from Branagh’s Poirot and his magnificent moustache, and despite his best efforts to make the detective quirky and interesting with his OCD and tactless approach (Asperger’s perhaps?), you can’t help but want more.
The investigations themselves are toneless and quickly become repetitive, with the exception of maybe Daisy Ridley’s Mary Debenham. The film only skims the surface of majority of the suspects and despite the incredible cast including Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe and more… no one is really given a moment to shine. It’s essentially two hours of cameos. A lot of wasted talent.
The mystery itself is somewhat compelling but the tedious investigation process makes it less so. By the time the big reveal comes around, I found myself to be more relieved that it was almost over rather than surprised or impressed in any way, and it doesn’t stop there. After the reveal, we’re subjected to some unnecessary moral backlash. Branagh seems to have given himself way too much screen time here.
The train itself holds an impressive and prestigious claustrophobia that’s well sustained through the weaving and fluid cinematography of Haris Zambarloukos (Thor, Locke), who is no stranger to Branagh’s ways. There’s a chic shine to the set as well as the characters that are in it, but that unfortunately can’t save this movie.
Nor can composer Patrick Doyle, also a regular Branagh collaborator, who puts a sickly sweet twist to the film’s score, especially in the closing credits where Michelle Pfeiffer lends a hand at singing the track ‘Never Forget’ – very out of place considering the film’s sombre tone.
It’s a tough remake to remake, considering the untoppable 1974 version directed by Sidney Lumet with Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman’s Oscar winning performance.
Final verdict: Murder on the Orient Express is one train you can miss.
Photo: Splash Report