Murder on the Orient Express (2017): Movie Review

Updated on November 12, 2017
popcollin profile image

Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).

Murder on the Orient Express
Murder on the Orient Express | Source

Of the dozens and dozens of books Agatha Christie wrote during her prolific career, none is perhaps as famous as her 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express. A riveting whodunit set on the famed train, Express has not only sold a gajillion copies, it’s been adapted (all with reverential faithfulness) as a movie in 1974, a radio play, and twice on TV. The latest comes courtesy of director Kenneth Branagh, and it’s produced by Kenneth Branagh, and it stars Kenneth Branagh as the famed detective Hercule Poirot.

In each of the 30-plus Poirot cases Christie wrote, the brilliant little Belgian never once hijacked the proceedings; she always let the entire ensemble of colorful characters and the ingenious plot carry her books, with the quirky Poirot there only to solve the crime. Here, however, the writer/producer/director has created The Branagh Show, taking what had all the potential in the world and instead keeping most of it for himself. It makes you slowly come to realize that we probably never needed this movie in the first place.

Express certainly has its share (and then some) of colorful characters, and each is played by a member of the cinema’s Who’s Who, including Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, and Daisy Ridley. But instead of being a delicately-crafted ensemble film, as the 1974 film so brilliantly was, Branagh’s version puts he himself front and center while leaving everyone else in the dust.

It all begins with a tedious and wholly unnecessary Poirot-focused prologue involving soft-boiled eggs, camel poop, and a stolen church relic. Yes, we know the detective is eccentric and a bit odd—let’s get to it.

Once the action finally does move to the train, things get a little better as we finally get to see glimpses of the motley crew of characters, along with, of course, a dead body and a murder to solve. And though the sweeping vistas are stunning to behold, as the train chugs through snow-capped mountain ranges and sun-dappled valleys on its way from Istanbul, the goings-on inside the train are much less exciting. Branagh relies on often-distracting camera gimmicks, such as shooting as if we’re up on the catwalk looking down at a stage, orchestrating pointless extended tracking shots, or shooting through beveled glass over and over again.

The screenplay is the work of Michael Green, who just a month ago wowed critics and audiences with the script for Blade Runner 2049. Before that he wrote the script for May’s Alien: Covenant and March’s Logan. You may not find a quartet of movies as disparate as these (especially over the course of eight months), but each shows a man (or chameleon?) with bona fide talent. Express is easily the weakest of the bunch, but it still has a handful of moments that cause a genuine chuckle or a quick fright.

Overall, Express simply never gets enough steam going to make the journey a success. A few of the characters are relegated to the background, and Branagh makes sure the rest can’t hold a candle to his pedantic Belgian detective. And it all culminates with an overly-dramatic ending that leads straight into an almost hilariously overt set-up for a sequel. It's not enough to make you want to stop the train to get off, but it’s far from the first-class service Christie’s tale deserves and has, in fact, received in the past.

Rating

3/5 stars

'Murder on the Orient Express' trailer

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)