HOLLYWOOD—I love a great murder mystery. I would honestly say that is the genre of cinema that I enjoy especially when it’s so well-crafted and the revelation at the end leaves you aghast. If you’ve been looking for a good murder mystery than “Murder on the Orient Express” might be the go to film. The flick is a classic take on the murder mystery genre, think “Clue,” but with an elevated set of theatrics, atmosphere and dynamic characters.
The 2017 film is a take on the Agatha Christie 1934 novel that follows a group of people being investigative by a detective after a business man is murdered on a train traveling to Istanbul. Taking on the titular role is Kenneth Branagh as Detective Hercule Poirot, who finds himself in the midst of the chaos looking for any and all evidence to nab the culprit of committing the dirty deed. Branagh also tackles directing duties for the flick.
I will admit while the scenery and atmosphere of the flick is unlike anything I’ve seen in a while on the big screen, I suspect Branagh not taking on directorial duties could have delivered a bit more ump to his character. How can I say this in the nicest way: his character seems a bit one-note at times, almost flat, and with a cast so heavy, the most important element is to ensure they are well-defined to ensure all standout, especially a flick of this magnitude where everyone is a suspect.
I mean you have Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Odom Jr., Daisy Ridley and so many more. The tale of the hour focuses on Depp’s character, Samuel Ratchett who is afraid for his life after receiving threats, and asks Poirot to act as his bodyguard, but he refuses. A chance avalanche leaves the train derailed and all chaos erupts. I mean the film has all the makings of a perfect murder mystery: unique characters, an isolated setting and tons of people with motive to commit the dirty deed.
“Murder on the Orient Express” does a fine job of presenting multiple red herrings to the audience, while also delivering the clues for the audience to discover the culprit before he or she is revealed. Like 2017 has been a stellar year for actress Michelle Pfeiffer. While I hated, “mother!,” Pfeiffer’s performance was electric, and she delivers another entertaining performance as Caroline Hubbard, who seems innocent, but all may not be the case if you look closely.
This is a movie that is difficult to talk about without giving too much away and spoiling the plot for the audience, but a bulk of the drama revolves around the murder of a little girl, Daisy Armstrong, and how each of these characters are connected. As a viewer you do easily become sutured into the madness, but at the same time one might argue that the climax is not as thrilling or fulfilling as you would want it to be. I would not necessarily call the ‘reveal’ lackluster, but it doesn’t deliver the punch as a fan of the genre you want to see. Its ok, but it’s not great, and that’s where I suspect the script just threw a dart and let it stick without properly evaluating how the revelation would impact the overall story.
“Murder on the Orient Express” is an entertaining film, but it lacks that overall twist that totally prevents a good movie from becoming a great movie.