Murder On The Orient Express Film Review
Almost 43 years after the release of the Sidney Lumet directed film adaptation of the acclaimed crime novel (by Agatha Christie), along came the latest film version of the exact same novel. Now written by Michael Green and directed by Kenneth Branagh, Murder on the Orient Express has precisely Branagh in the lead role. That of the brilliant detective Hercule Poirot.
The year is 1934, and after the brief yet theatrical investigating job in Jerusalem, the charming and horny Bouc (Tom Bateman) boards the detective Hercule Poirot on the Orient Express train. Mid transit, the train will become briefly derailed (caused by terrible snowy and windy weather) but also a man will be murdered in one of the carriages. So, Poirot must solve the mystery and find the killer, but that won’t be a very easy task for the famed Belgian detective.
As I was walking away from the movie theater… I thought to myself… hell… Kenneth Branagh made one safe and highly watchable movie. This might be the most mediocre movie in his directing career but, there are some good points to be acknowledged as well. For starters, Branagh approached this movie like he was directing a play. Like he was on the stage. Tight knit, claustrophobic and set production heavy, it should be a perfect moment for the actors to shine. Well at least on paper, but very few do, actually. Yes Branagh does a fine job in being slightly obnoxious in the role of Poirot, but not so that he’s insufferable. His facial hair is borderline crazy, but there is no denying that he’s pretty much present in every scene. Other actors struggle with limited or barely there screen time, but Branagh is everywhere. He’s the leader in front of the camera, and of course behind it, and I must applaud his decision to shoot the movie with 65mm film cameras. Not that many directors use them.
Oh, and speaking of other actors… The screenwriter (Michael Green) was a nurturing mother to some of the actors and an evil stepmother to the second half of performers. While the talent of let’s say Michelle Pfeiffer is used properly, there are some severely and criminally underrated actors in this otherwise fascinating assembly. Josh Gad is absolutely wonderful and so is Leslie Odom Jr. and you’re in for a treat, if you pay a closer attention at Johnny Depp’s performance here. He’s quite good even in the limited screen-time that has been given, and considering all the flops and all the terrible acting he’s given us (the fans) lately… this was a lovely surprise from Depp. And about the other actors you see on the poster… Forget about most of them. Penelope Cruz is in 2-3 scenes, so is Judy Dench and don’t even get me started about Willem Defoe and Olivia Colman. It’s sad to see such talent wasted, as most of them are just being interrogated while in a tiny confined area.
Yes, Murder on the Orient Express is sometimes stuffy and claustrophobic. Yes sometimes is heavy on CGI and fake looking, but the costumes and the cinematography make it worthwhile. But remember when early in this post I mentioned that it’s a safe movie? Yes for the most part it is. Visually, artistically, and even thematically. Yes it sometimes suffers from pacing problems, but not enough to lose your attention. But no one can deny that the movie is not also emotional. At least for Poirot. The final 15 minutes of the movie are an emotional stretch for Branagh and his character, and that is a striking contrast from the weird 15 opening minutes of the movie. While I’m at it… I have to say that I didn’t particularly liked the scenes in Jerusalem at the beginning and as they didn’t really set the tone for what’s to come. We mostly found found out that Poirot likes his eggs identical in size, boiled for 4 minutes and the neck ties of those around him really straight.
But when it’s all said and done there is no denying that Murder on the Orient Express is one decent albeit mediocre movie. You won’t be thrilled and exhilarated by the mystery surrounding the murder (and eventual discovery of the killer/s) but you sure as hell won’t be bored to death.