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Murder On The Orient Express (2017)

November 23, 2017

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom Jr., Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad
Director: Kenneth Branagh (Mama, Inception, Memento)

Bottom Line: I never read Agatha Christie’s novel that this film is based on so I have nothing to say about the source material or how well it was adapted by the screenwriters. The gist of the film revolves around a rather legendary detective named Hercule Poirot (played by director Kenneth Branagh) who finds himself aboard The Orient Express when one of his fellow passengers is murdered and is put to task to solve the crime.

Branagh gives such an uneven performance as Poirot that I found myself disconnected from the film very early on. Branagh starts the film off playing Poirot like he’s a Sacha Baron Cohen character and by the time I realized this movie was supposed to be taken seriously, I was already checked out. By the third act of the film, I was thinking Branagh was actually doing a pretty good job, but by that point, I had pretty much already dismissed his performance as cheesy.

Because of this rather monumental shift in tone, I just didn’t care much about what was going on. I don’t know if it’s Christie’s novel (I’m guessing no) or if the production team just did a poor job bringing the story to life. Branagh and his cinematographer do some interesting things with the camera and there is some gorgeous set pieces in the film, but the characters are just so unbelievably dull. I didn’t care about a single one of them.

Also, for all the phenomenal actors cast in this movie, no one really gives a notable performance. Again, I don’t know if it is weak characters or poor direction from Branagh, but I felt like pretty much everyone in the cast could have been replaced by some random actor and it wouldn’t really change anything. I can’t remember the last time Johnny Depp has played such a forgettable character – for better or for worse.

I was really disappointed with Murder On The Orient Express. When I first saw the trailer I was really intrigued – it looked great. The execution was just not good. I’m not really sure who this movie is for. I suspect Branagh thought he was making Oscar fodder, but it’s unlikely this movie is going to get any nominations. If it does, it will be for Cinematography or Art Direction, but the film has gotten such lukewarm responses that it will probably whiff entirely. I imagine there’s a good movie to be made with this story, but this isn’t the one. It was boring and Branagh seemed confused on what the tone should be. I can’t in good faith recommend it to anyone as I did not enjoy it myself.

Replay Value: I will likely never watch this version again.
Sequel Potential: Just did some digging and I see that Hercule Poirot is an iconic and prolific character in Agatha Christie canon. If this was a huge success, Branagh could have possibly parlayed it into his own iconic character. I predict this is the last time he plays Hercule Poirot on film. With so much material to adapt from a noteworthy author, however, this surely won’t be the last time the world sees the character on the big screen.
Oscar Potential: Very little. Some outside chances at the categories I mentioned earlier.

Grade: 4 (Forgettable)

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