The marketing for this film reeled me in. I was dazzled by the flashy cast, the flashy trailer, and the big moustache. I thought to myself; perhaps this isn’t the cynical cash grab I was expecting, and will in fact be a fun new take on this oft adapted tale. It saddens me to report that it is not fun, that it is cynical, but above both these things, Murder on the Orient Express is a boring film.
A murder mystery should not be boring, even one based on an 84-year-old story that nearly everyone knows. When watching this latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s most famous novel, the person I was with fell asleep (somewhere around the hour mark). Had I not been reviewing the film, I probably would have nodded off too. Even the distractingly starry cast can’t save this from being dreadfully dull.
Sir Kenneth Branagh, directs and stars as legendary Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Travelling from Istanbul to Calais, he is joined on the Orient Express by a fascinating gallery of rogues and royalty. There’s a Russian princess (Dame Judi Dench), her maid (Olivia Colman), a governess (Daisy Ridley), a doctor with whom she shares a mysterious past (Leslie Odom,Jr), a shifty American businessman (Johnny Depp), his butler (Derek Jacobi), his secretary (Josh Gad), a German professor (Willem Dafoe), an American tourist (Michelle Pfeiffer), a missionary (Penelope Cruz), a businessman (Manuel Garcia-Rufo), and the Count and Countess Andrenyi (Sergei Polunin and Lucy Boynton).
When one of the passengers is murdered in a particularly grisly way, Poirot and his sensational facial accoutrement (a moustache so spectacular it has its own moustache) must discover the identity of ze killeur. With the train derailed by an avalanche, and buried in the snow, a claustrophobic game of cat and mouse begins.
Filmed in spectacular 65mm, Branagh imbues the film with a lush cinematic aesthetic, which works surprisingly well in the cramped interiors of the train. The period detail, make-up and costumes are all beautiful, and the performances as you would expect from such an esteemed company are all fine, though no one is breaking new ground here.
However, the whole enterprise is undermined by being frightfully tedious. Branagh attempts to add some urgency with some off-train-escapades, and his constantly hurtling camera, but it doesn’t equate to drama. The same goes for the extraordinary cast. Just because you recognise every name on the call sheet, it in no way guarantees some sort of cinematic alchemy will occur once the camera rolls. Starry they may be, but the lack of chemistry between them is the real killer on board this train.
If you’re unfamiliar with Christie, have never seen the Suchet or Finney versions, and have an attention span short enough to ignore the dramatic frailties of this version, you might enjoy it. Otherwise, pop it on and have yourself a nice long snooze.
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe Director: Kenneth Branagh Writer: Michael Green Released By: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Certificate: 12 Duration: 109 mins Release Date: 5th March 2018