Murder on the Orient Express is a mystery drama directed by Kenneth Branagh. The story begins with famous detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) wanting to take a vacation after solving a case in Jerusalem. Traveling from Istanbul, Poirot is informed of new information that requires his presence back home. After being offered a ride on the Orient Express, a murder occurs in the middle of the night on the overbooked train. Poirot, the self-proclaimed greatest detective in the world, is requested to solve the mysterious murder.
I haven’t read any of Agatha Christie novels or watch any adaptations. If I have, I don’t remember. English films tend to be too overly dramatic over events that don’t warrant such emotion. Too much exposition and characters with dialog that is unrealistic. As if they are memorizing lines straight from a novel when conversations occur. Murder on the Orient Express had that in spades, which was disappointing due to the great trailer for the film. It’s well shot and beautiful to look at. It has some stunning backdrops and inventive camera angles. Also, I enjoyed the light-hearted scenes in the beginning and goofy moments with the quirky detective. That doesn’t last as it quickly takes itself too serious. Then begins a plethora of speeches from the suspects and Poirot himself.
The tone seems a bit muddled and how they setup the narrative is a bit haphazard in the beginning. The pacing starts off well enough to introduce the detective, but not enough information is given. Once they get on the train the pacing picks up and gets into the murder mystery vibe. Just when the key moments that are supposed to have tension arrive, it slows to a crawl only to leave me not caring about the rest of the film. At one point, too much information is given that I was able to discern who had done it. From then onwards it left me thinking I was correct, so maybe that added to the boredom I found in the rest of the film. There were some scenes that dragged in length and a few that just needed to be cut. The cast was filled with immense talent, but not nearly enough time to have good enough character development for most. Given what they had to work with, they all performed well.
The best parts of the movie were the light-hearted scenes, music and cinematography. Unfortunately, the narrative and direction are lacking. When a film’s premise is about solving a murder, it should be able to hold your attention until the reveal. Murder on the Orient Express does a poor job as the tension gets cut every time a character makes a long-winded speech. The pace can’t keep up where the tension should be and creates a boring second half. Murder on the Orient Express is a well-made movie that looks beautiful, but it lacks heart. Too many times it had me checking my watch.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 1 hr 54 min
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay: Michael Green
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley and Michelle Pfeiffer
Producers: Ridley Scott, Mark Gordon, Simon Kinberg, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund and Michael Schaefer
Music: Patrick Doyle
Cinematography: Haris Zambarloukos