Star-studded “Murder on the Orient Express” fails to impress
Autumn blockbusters like Blade Runner 2049 and Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok have been making waves at the box office; the release of Murder At The Orient Express is considered to at least make a splash. The new film has peaked interest among audiences with big Hollywood names like Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s Daisy Ridley, to name a few. This gaggle of acting royalty lend their names to this whodunnit-on-a-train expedition across the frigid mountainsides of rural Turkey, but I’m still waiting for it to thaw out.
Starring and directed by Irish actor/director Kenneth Branagh (known for directing 2015’s Cinderella, 2013’s Thor and starring in 2017’s Dunkirk), this lavish and mature crime thriller is based on the 1934 best-selling British detective novel by the Queen of Mystery herself, Agatha Christie, first made into a film in 1974 starring Albert Finney (Skyfall). The story follows the smart and savvy Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), a well-known Belgian detective, famous for his intuition and ability to solve even the most difficult of cases. Detective Poirot finds himself in the middle of a murder mystery on the Orient Express after it derails on the frigid mountainside thanks to a minor avalanche. The rest of the film is an intricately woven web, layered with lies, betrayal, and murder.The book is a classic, beloved by fans for decades, so it’s no wonder the hype over the movie. You’d never guess it lacked excitement by the trailer, however.
I have to wonder if the legendary Agatha Christie would be content with this live-action rendition of her classic mystery. With a screenplay by Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049, Logan), impressive cinematography, CGI and costume design, and a list of featured actors to kill (literally), this poised and classic tale should have hit a homerun with critics. Instead, the story feels forced, the characters seem disconnected, and the highlights and star power of the film aren’t enough to save it from bad reviews and disappointed fans.
Murder on the Orient Express is like The Polar Express’ older, second cousin. The script is intellectual, international, and witty, but the plot drags, leaving audiences disengaged. A literal avalanche of celebrity co-stars board the Orient Express in Istanbul, Turkey, and everyone becomes a suspect after one of the passengers turn up murdered, a la Clue. Now, it’s up to Detective Hercule Poirot to crack the case.
From the very top of the film, Kenneth Branagh sparkles as Detective Poirot: his staple moustache is Movember goals, his droll humour gets all the laughs, his wardrobe is pristine, and his Belgian accent are all very charming and impressive attributes. Branagh’s performance is as standout as possible – considering the film as a whole leaves a less than compelling taste in your mouth.
The railroad cars are full of A-list actors but not one of them (besides perhaps Michelle Pfieffer as Caroline Hubbard and/or Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff) really bring anything to the fine dining tables of the Orient Express. Willem Dafoe (Death Note), Leslie Odom Jr. (SMASH), and Josh Gad (Frozen) round up the acclaimed cast, and while all respected and talented, they, too, could not make this train ticket worthwhile.
All aboard! It’s Mediocrity on the Subordinate Express!
What could have been the Sherlock Holmes of 2017 is actually just a luke-warm buffet of celebrity cameos and dead ends .A train wreck, in every sense. I’ll admit the finale took me by surprise, but it was too little too late. The catalyst of the entire film was when Detective Poirot, disgruntled (like the audience) with the outcome of the happenings on the train, turns to the passengers/suspects and says, “The scales of justice are not always evenly weighed; we must learn to live with the unbalance.” Justice is not always served, just like movies starring great actors aren’t always good. I expected to be on the edge of my seat, but instead, I was shuffling around in it.
Even still, Murder on the Orient Express is in competition at the box office with Daddy’s Home 2 (starring Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell and the problematic Mel Gibson), this weekend. It will be a duel for second place as these movies are sandwiched between Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok (which is likely to remain at the top spot) and DC’s Justice League, out next weekend, November 17.
If you’re planning on catching a flick, skip both Murder on the Orient Express and Daddy’s Home 2, and spring for a 3D/4DX experience with Thor: Ragnarok. You won’t regret it.
Next stop, Justice League!
About the Author
Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.