#REVIEW: “MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS”
Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
One of Agatha Christie’s most enduring creations, the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest Detective,” Hercule Poirot, returns to the big screen in the star-studded mystery Murder on the Orient Express. This is hardly the first time the classic Whodunit has been made into a Movie, but Director Kenneth Branagh is hoping familiarity will spark Box Office dollars rather than contempt.
Due to a change of plans, Master Detective Hercule Poirot takes a last-minute berth on the Orient Express departing from Istanbul. During his first night on the train, Poirot meets the other passengers including Ratchett (Johnny Depp) the sketchy businessman, Miss Debenham (Daisy Ridley) the governess, and the husband hunting Mrs. Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer). In search of solitude, Poirot attempts to distance himself from all parties until he is awoken to the news that Ratchett has been murdered. Despite his desire to enjoy a temporary vacation, Poirot is pressed by his friend Bouc to investigate the crime and find the murderer.
Stepping into the Belgian Detective’s shoes is a heavily-accented Branagh who plays the role as both straight man and occasional buffoon. The latter explains winks to Christie fans like the sleep protector for his famous mustache. Rather than basking in catch phrases (which are still liberally used) Branagh has attempted to bring his own nuances to a character many associate with a different actor. In the opening minutes of the Movie, Poirot solves a crime and without bringing further attention to his extreme OCD, he explains away his superior detecting skills as a result of his abilities to observe the minutiae in everything around him.
Despite the closed quarters and a massive supporting cast loaded with Tony and Oscar winners, Dames and Jedi alike, Orient Express never feels claustrophobic. Rather than small performances to fill the confined spaces in key moments, supporting players like Josh Gad and Penélope Cruz gleefully chewed the scenery at every opportunity. Although some performances may feel slightly over-the-top it is difficult to imagine the task Branagh had corralling everyone into the limited space of the train cars. To this end, Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos utilized an array of camera angles and where possible, took the action outside the train.
Screenwriter Michael Green (who penned both Logan and Blade Runner 2049) chose to make this Adaptation about morality. Early in the Movie Poirot observes, “There is right. There is wrong. There is nothing in between.” This belief is put to the test repeatedly as suspects are interviewed and Poirot comes closer to solving the case. Although the facts of the case have not altered from Christie’s source material, Green approaches the condemnation of the guilty party with a more modern touch.
Murder on the Orient Express fails to tread new ground and loses steam throughout Third Act. Thanks to its well-known story and pantheon of familiar faces this fatally-mediocre Movie is certain to appeal to a wide audience and serves as a good reminder that not every Movie released this time of year need be Oscar bait.
20th Century Fox Films Canada opens Murder on the Orient Express on Friday, November 8, 2017.