Murder on the Orient Express
Kenneth Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express is a stylish and well-acted murder-mystery that benefits from its visual thrills and ensemble cast, but fumbles into predictability as the story unfolds.
Kenneth Branagh‘s Murder on the Orient Express is a unique pause among the Winter season. As Disney rolls out Thor: Ragnarok and preps for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Fox releases Branagh’s latest adult-focused murder-mystery into eager eyes and the result is disappointingly predictable, presenting visual thrills and an actor’s dream of collaborators, while the actual story falls into familiar territory, bringing the suspense to a halt as the train derails into yet another misfire of the year.
Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) might just be the world’s best private eye, seeing the world as good or bad, with no in between. He’s famous for solving just about any case, which is why his mustache perks up when he’s faced with murder aboard the Orient Express, with thirteen strangers to investigate before the killer strikes again.
Murder on the Orient Express is visually engaging, presenting the upper-class mentality of the past through privileged eyes. That isn’t to say that every single character aboard the train comes from money, but they all have their own secrets of struggle and success that have brought them to this point.
Director Kenneth Branagh smartly shoots the film with a stylish lens that pays attention to detail almost as much as the great detective. The film is full of long hallway shots that almost characterize the train as something to keep an eye on. Spacial awareness is mostly preserved as Branagh details each cab and compartment to give the audiences a sense claustrophobia among class.
It works and gives the film a unique setting that was sold in most of the trailers. Well, that combined with the trademark “whodunit” approach, like a more sophisticated game of Clue. The only difference with Murder on the Orient Express is that the result is actually quite obvious.
Maybe that’s because I’ve seen a movie or two, but I started to untangle the plot almost immediately. Perhaps, Branagh’s intentions weren’t to surprise or shock, but instead to craft a well-balanced mystery with a stronger focus on characters and their layers, versus simply trying to fool or trick the audience.
In that case, he might have succeeded, because most of the performances in the film are good. Not great, but good, showy performances that will no doubt pad the resumes. It’s always nice seeing Daisy Ridley on the screen again, especially outside the Star Wars universe. Also, Johnny Depp gives a subtle, yet strong performance that again shows the man’s talents outside the usual makeup and costume.
Kenneth Branagh is an absolute treat as the film’s centered detective. His mustache is a revelation and the tone deaf comedy that his character brings to the film gives things a unique perspective. His character isn’t exactly in love with the idea of being capable to solve just about any crime, yet he doesn’t walk around the film acting like a complete bummer. He’s aware of his curse and converts it into a gift when the time is appropriate.
Murder on the Orient Express is definitely aimed at those looking for a little murder-mystery to distract them from this Holiday season. It’s no awards contender or even a strong enough film to recommend an immediate trip to the cinemas, but it’s engaging and engaging in a way that makes the first half of the film somewhat exciting, if not slightly confusing.
The revealing portion is disappointing and nearly derails the entire thing before arriving at its destination, yet I still wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to the right crowd. If you’re looking for a film that features familiar faces, lavish looks and a few soft thrills, then Murder on the Orient Express just might be what the doctor ordered, otherwise exit left and don’t forget to grab your luggage while leaving.