Film Review: “Murder on the Orient Express”

The key to enjoying this, arguably unnecessary, reboot of the Agatha Christie’s classic is managing your expectations. If you are expecting a first-rate thriller with entirely plausible logic, you may be disappointed. If you choose to approach the film ready for some Doctor Who-level camp, then you can enjoy what is truly a fun movie!

As this is but another version on a very long list of Murder on the Orient Express adaptations, the real mystery here isn’t “whodunnit” but “how will the film do it”. The sweeping mountain valley shots and the opulent train were a treat. Not to mention the cinematography. Branagh chose some particularly off-kilter shots, and they all paid off. A single-cut shot of all our passengers boarding the train really allowed you to settle in the pace of the movie. Filming sleuthing scenes around the victim’s body from above allowed a kind of heavenly view… perhaps a nod to the fact that we are an omniscient audience, thanks to the many other iterations of the story.

Obviously the cast was all-star, and I’m going to disagree with the critics as I felt they each got a moment to shine. Michelle Pfeiffer was a voracious husband-hunting delight. Daisy Ridley was demure, yet forceful. Particularly fun to watch was Willem DaFoe as the duplicitous Gerhard Hardman. The most surprising performance for me was actually Josh Gad as Hector MacQueen, which involved some acting chops I never knew Olaf/LeFou was capable of.

The absolute star of the show is Kenneth Branagh, who also wears the Director’s hat, and his mustache. His Hercule Poirot was a perfect combination of Sherlock Holmes and Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor. Quirky, quick tongued, and hilarious… yet cold and calculating. After stepping into large pile of animal droppings, his concern was not for his expensive shoes. “It is the imbalance…” he explains before backtracking his other shoe into the mess. That’s Hercule. Everything must be symmetrical and balanced. It is with this keen eye for the imperfect and inconsistent that he takes on the mystery of the murder of Johnny Depp’s somewhat comical Edward Ratchett. The pacing felt perfectly on point, and watching Poirot chase his tail trying to pin down all these coincidental connections was entertainment enough. 

Despite some widespread slamming by critics, Fox is clearly confident enough in the revival to continue Detective Poirot’s story, as they have greenlit the sequelDeath on the Nile. Since the end of Murder on the Orient Express sees Hercule heading to Cairo to solve a murder, presumably the sequel will follow him on his next adventure. But he is still not yet officially attached to the project. While it might be nice to try a fresh director, I really hope Branagh returns, as he really was the biggest delight of the film. If they recast him I will revolt.

Have you seen Murder on the Orient Express, yet? What did you think!

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