‘Murder on the Orient Express’ keeps audiences guessing, but not on the edge of their seats
I’ve always been a sucker for a melodramatic mystery narrative, as evidenced by the copious amounts of Sherlock Holmes stories that reside on my bookshelves back home. I will admit, I hadn’t read the Agatha Christie source material before going into this, and while this film wasn’t a spectacle that I will go back to the theater again and again for, “Murder on the Orient Express” provided an entertaining couple of hours filled with suspense, wry humor and a French accent that’s just a little too close to Inigo Montoya in “Princess Bride.”
The story begins with the successful solving of another mystery, thus establishing Hercule Poirot, Kenneth Branagh’s French Sherlock Holmes-esque character, as one of a high reputation in his field of solving crime. Witty, sarcastic and all around similar to Doyle’s character in everything except appearance and nationality, Poirot was one of the few high points in this film. His deductions were impressive enough to curl even his overly-impressive handlebar mustache, but not even this stellar actor, who also directed this film, could keep audiences on the edge of their seats for the duration.
Even with a locked room mystery murder on a train, it was difficult to stay engrossed in the story. As an avid aficionado of detective stories, this tale left me disappointed. Since the ending is one of the most well-known “whodunnit” reveals in the history of the detective genre, it rather fell flat in comparison with other detective tales. What is there to detect when nearly everyone already knows how the story ends? Audiences can’t enjoy the thrill of the chase if they already know where the chase ends up. Of course, the source material is from 1934, and that does leave a bit of time open for spoilers to circulate. Either way, this film left me wanting more.
However, this film was not completely disappointing. The aesthetics were beautiful. The mountains, music and costumes were wonderful, creating a flawless environment for this flawed crime drama. A few moments were packed with Poirot’s sarcasm and isolation-preferring nature, and I can definitely empathize with a character who would rather dive into a book than associate with his fellow passengers on a train, even if that book is written by Charles Dickens.
There are a few praiseworthy performances in this movie that need to be noted besides Branagh, including Daisy Ridley (“The Force Awakens”) as Miss Mary Debenham. Her character not only dressed sharply, but had a mind and a personality to match. Other major actors that did leave a bit of an impression were Johnny Depp as the shady and sleazy murder victim, Edward Ratchett, who also isn’t who he appears to be; Josh Gad as Hector Macqueen; and Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff. All of these big names packed into this overly exquisite train should have meant a gorgeous work that I would gladly watch multiple times, but instead it rather fell short of my greater expectations.
Although an aesthetic beauty, “Murder on the Orient Express,” left a lot to be desired. The director didn’t take an express route to actually get into the plot, and maybe that’s why I’d rather remain at the train station than take this ride again.
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