A remake of mystery film based on a book I haven’t read with a great cast and director, sign me up!
Synopsis: What starts out as a lavish train ride through Europe quickly unfolds into one of the most stylish, suspenseful and thrilling mysteries ever told. From the novel by best-selling author Agatha Christie, “Murder on the Orient Express” tells the tale of thirteen strangers stranded on a train, where everyone’s a suspect. One man must race against time to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again. (20th Century Fox)
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, and Willem Dafoe
Writer: Michael Green
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 114mins
For showtimes and more, check out Murder on the Orient Express on movietimes.com.
Those expecting a lot of a film boasting a great cast like this one has may be disappointed but more on that later. For those who don’t know the story, the film focused on a famed detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) who was thrust into solving a murder while stranded on a train called the Orient Express where the suspect could be one of the other thirteen passengers on board.
Poirot was a Sherlock Holmes type detective with an awesome moustache who developed a reputation by using every ounce of his cunning to solve crimes around the world. Poirot was looking for a vacation and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The film focused on him and his investigation as he searched for evidence and interviewed the other passengers to try to find the killer. Over time, we get to learn about these passengers but the narrow focus made it difficult to connect to or care about any of them. Instead of giving them character development, the film gave Poirot a prologue sequence to introduce his legend. The film treated them more as pieces to a puzzle than actual characters which was fine.
While Poirot was fun to watch, his investigation begins to meander a little in the middle which may leave some feeling bored. Nothing of note really happened during this time and it lacked emotional stakes or much excitement. As his investigation progressed, there’s plenty of information to remember as passengers and their backstories become connected. The fact that there was a lot going on along with the lack of character development made things hard to follow at times. The film did get more exciting once Poirot’s investigation reached its conclusion but some may be lost and the resolution may not have the right impact as a result.
The film was also very well shot with some beautiful inside and outside shots including the train running through the wintery weather and also some cramped inside shots from within the train which helped to add some tension. Even with the focus on Poirot, some of the passengers had some moments but they were few and far between.
The acting was good all around with Branagh being the default standout. He was great here as the eccentric Poirot, french accent and all. Poirot’s inner conflict was compelling to watch as he was determined to solve a very challenging case for him. Cruz, Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley, just to name a few, did the best with what they had as the various passengers, all giving solid performances with Cruz and Pfeiffer standing out above the other passengers.
Overall, this was a good, well-produced mystery film despite an inconsistent story and shallow characters that may be hard to follow for some but is partially saved by the lead performance from Kenneth Branagh.