Murder on the Orient Express is Dead on Arrival

Release Date: November 10, 2017
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Ridley Scott, Sion Kinberg, Mark Gordon, Aditya Sood, Michael Schaefer, Judy Hofflund, et al.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rating:
Review Spoilers: Low 
IMDB | Wikipedia | RT

Murder on the Orient Express is a film adaptation of the Agatha Christie mystery novel of the same name. The famous detective, Hercule Poirot, is traveling by train to England with a series of strangers. When one of them is found brutally stabbed to death, he must find the killer amongst the passengers. 

I love Agatha Christie. I really love her. I read a lot of her books growing up, and I was really excited about this movie. With really high expectations, it was probably inevitable that I was going to feel let down.

But it wasn’t for the reasons that I originally thought. Most of the time I dislike a movie adaptation because it doesn’t follow the source material closely. Not here.

If anything, this adaptation is a very close interpretation of the source material. It just doesn’t translate very well onscreen. A large part of that is because of the expansive cast (and suspect!) list. There simply isn’t enough time to do a deep dive into the mystery and examine every character. Instead, we get snippets of interviews with famous faces that do little to drive the plot forward.

This, too, would have been fine if there were some different directorial choices made. The movie tries too hard to be a glitzy, big-Hollywood production, not realizing that the casual aficionados and die-hard fans are both left unsatisfied with that approach. I’m sick of the zoomed-out overhead shots of the train compartments that don’t show any crime scene detail!

I’m so disappointed because it had every chance to succeed.

Orient Express really should have leaned into its quirk. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but that’s fine. It has a braggadocios, brilliant main lead and a compelling murder mystery in a fun setting.

It’s the perfect puzzle – a closed system with a magnetic lead. If it turned into more of a slower paced, old-timey 12 Angry Men atmospheric, character-driven film, I think this adaptation would have succeeded.

A lot of the fun from mysteries is piecing together the clues yourself to guess the killer. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t give the audience enough time to think and breathe, let alone the attention to detail so that they can get invested in solving the case themselves.

Also, the characters felt wooden. I never believed any of them were in any real danger, and I didn’t care about any of them! We barely spend time on any one individual, so it’s difficult to feel immersed in the mystery.

As it stands, this movie was so bland. There was absolutely nothing remarkable about it. The dialogue was average, the acting was average, and the plot was average. 

Murder on the Orient Express had so much potential, but it was as dead on arrival as its murder victim.