‘Murder on the Orient Express’ Remake a Mystery without Much Intrigue

Murder_on_the_Orient_Express_teaser_posterI wasn’t sure who it was that killed Johnny Depp in this film, but I imagined it had something to do with all the “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequels…

“Murder on the Orient Express” is based on the 1934 novel of the same name, which was previously adapted into the 1974 film. The film follows famous detective Hercule Poirot as he tries to solve the murder of a gangster on a train in 1933. Kenneth Branagh directs and stars alongside an ensemble cast which includes Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer and Daisy Ridley.

This was on my 2017 Top 10 watchlist. I have never seen the original (there are only so many hours in the day to see so many films) but the premise is intriguing and the cast beyond impressive. The trailers didn’t do much for me but I remained intrigued, which is why it is a disappointment that this trip isn’t anything special.

The cast is impressive but short of Branagh, no one really is anything beyond an extended cameo. They all play the type of characters you think they will, with Depp being a growling caricature and Josh Gad playing his normal bumbling self. It is fun to see actors show up in frame, especially the likes of Dame Judi Dench, although at times it feels more like a bunch of friends hanging out with a camera happening to be filming (a la an Adam Sandler joint) than a cohesive movie.

The production value is almost a character within itself, from the costumes to the elaborate design of the train. The film feels like an old-fashion piece that Hollywood doesn’t pump out much anymore and I’m sure for some people the big name cast and fancy backdrops will be enough to coast off of.

Unfortunately, for me at least, the murder mystery aspect of the film was never overly enticing. They make it seem as if pretty much every person on the train could be a suspect, which while good on them for not being too obvious it also hurts the audiences’ ability to figure things out. By the time the curtain is pulled back and we get answers, there has been little for us to piece together ourselves and we must just accept what the writer gives us.

“Murder on the Orient Express” looks great, full of pretty sets and pretty people, but unfortunately its beauty is only skin-deep.  People who are bare-minimum filmgoers may be to overlook the mundane execution and enjoy themselves  but for people like me who were hoping for a juicy mystery with a few twists that really leave you floored, you will be left wishing the film had more steam.

Critics Rating: 5/10

20th Century Fox

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