Murder on the Orient Express

Hercule Poirot is a world-renowned detective, known almost as much for his venerable mustaches as for his excellent deductive skills. On the way home from solving yet another case successfully, his train gets stuck in the middle of nowhere thanks to an avalanche, and that’s not the worst thing that’s happened aboard the Orient Express. Overnight, there has been a murder most foul. One of the dozen or so passengers is dead, and another must be his murderer. With Hercule Poirot unluckily aboard, can his or her identity remain secret? It seems unlikely.

MV5BMTU4NjU5NDYxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzgyODg0MjI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1497,1000_AL_Kenneth Branagh directs himself as Agatha Christie’s famed Poirot, and he’s equally right in both roles. He leads an all-star cast including Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe and more. The only thing you can complain about with such an ensemble is that we spend precious little time with any one of them – Dench is particularly underused.

Branagh shoots on 65mm film and the result is luxurious and beautiful; I could barely take my eyes off the scenery, and indeed, the script gave me little reason to. I’m still not sure what genre of movie Murder on the Orient Express was trying to be. There might be a mystery at its core, but the audience feels no particular sense of urgency in solving it. There’s almost zero tension, which seems like a failure when a murderer is trapped among a gaggle of vulnerable potential victims, each with a neck ripe for slicing. And though I commend Branagh’s attempt at making Poirot sag a little under the pressure of his special skill set, the character seems largely untouched by the story unraveling before him. Leached of the emotional heft probably its due, the story never delivers any punch. There’s no real suspense. So while every shot is perfectly composed and the film is a stylistic triumph, it just doesn’t do justice to Christie’s plot.

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26 thoughts on “Murder on the Orient Express

  1. Birgit

    Have you seen the 1970’s version? Your complaint could be the same of that version and I still enjoyed it. I think, having read the book and seen the original film, I was more wanting to see how Poirot goes about solving the case and seeing if I could pick up on the subtle clues. Wendy Hiller, in the original film, was also under-used and I think Judi Dench plays the same character?? I still want to see it but I don’t think it matches up to the film with Albert Finney in the role of Poirot. Kenneth, even with that moustache still looks good.

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  2. tubularsock

    Are there just not enough new writing out there for a movie to be made? Tubularsock guesses there is really only one story. Studio gets director, director gets stars, Camera runs, editor edits, film produced, and popcorn served …….. money is made. NEXT.

    Oh damn, content forgotten. Let’s try Orient Express 3. Winning formula.

    Thanks Jay. You convinced Tubularsock! Looks like it will be Superman 27 this weekend!

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  3. D. Wallace Peach

    Rats! The previews are interesting, but in a way, they reflect your review – they seem stylized and beautiful but not very dynamic. I’m sure I’ll see this movie eventually. Too bad Branagh missed the opportunity to make a great book into a riveting film.

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  4. J.

    I saw the trailer for this just last week and thought “what’s this?”… I had no idea this was in the works. Anyhoo, I kinda figured the movie wouldn’t really offer too much other than nice scenery and the occasional glimpse at one of the cast saying or doing something. I guess there’s always a chance someone gets lost during these ‘ensemble cast’ type affairs, eh?

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  5. Lloyd Marken

    I quite enjoyed it. I agree there’s no suspense which is odd for a murder mystery, instead it comes off as a relaxed character piece. The mystery hardly fascinating all these years later with the genre it exemplified having evolved. On the other hand I dug Poirot and was touched by the ending. To me it does seem he is affected.

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  6. raistlin0903

    I completely agree with your review. The scenery and cinematography was very beautiful, but with such a stellar cast I expected so much more for this one. I’m not really a big fan of murder mysteries anyway, so there is that. But I have definitely seen much better, and quite frankly more entertaining and suspenseful movies than this one. Real shame if you ask me.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yeah, I’m first of all just sort of mad that there’s no way you could put together the “solution” just by the “clues” alone, which feels like cheating.
      And not that I wanted a longer, bloated movie, but they’ve got so many talented people with not much to do.

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      1. raistlin0903

        Absolutely: I think most of the talent for this movie was really wasted. So many great actors, but a lot of them just had almost nothing to do. Which is a real shame if I’m being honest 😢

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