Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review
Boredom on the Orient Express is a movie that would have worked just splendidly 60 years ago when audiences demanded less when it comes to character development, plotting, and mystery, but in this day and age, it operates best as a momentarily entertaining coma inducer, a dull, uninteresting and predictable affair if there ever was one.
Sure, Boredom… sorry, Murder on the Orient Express is based on the acclaimed book by Agatha “Murder Mystery Badass” Christie and tells a story that, according to my Mom a.k.a. Agatha Christie groupie a.k.a. Murder Mystery Lover #1, was revolutionary for its time. And sure, from what it sounds like, director and star Kenneth Branagh is pretty faithful to the story.
The problem: the story… the murder mystery… is pretty fucking lame.
Yeah, I’m a Millennial, so I have a short attention span. But I also have expectations that a movie released in 2017 will properly adapt the material to be something other than a snoozefest that fails miserably at the one thing it most definitely is: a murder mystery.
Branagh’s latest work is pretty, with bright colors and a colorful (if wasted) cast that includes Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer and Josh Gad. And it has its moments, primarily humorous ones, that hint at a more entertaining experience than what ultimately occurs.
Murder on the Orient Express is stuffed with potential murderers, but Branagh fails to develop any of them to a degree that makes them feel like anything more than caricatures. Worse, as soon as Branagh’s Hercule Poirot starts connecting the dots, it becomes increasingly clear who the culprit(s) is, which seems like a no-no for a murdery mystery. And even worse than that, despite the ending being predictable, it is completely and utterly impossible to play along with the mystery because all of the clues - and character back stories - come out of nowhere because Poirot is the greatest detective ever in the history of the world and we’re just supposed to go along with it. Sherlock Holmes and Columbo were both pretty damn good at their jobs, but at least the clues were there for savvy mystery fans to figure out on their own.
My Mom, who attended the screening with me, liked the movie of course, because that’s what she does and she loves Agatha Christie more than a white supremacist loves Donald Trump. When I told her none of the characters made any sense, she declared with, “Agatha Christie isn’t known for her character development.” When I told her the murder mystery was lame, she said, “It was groundbreaking for its time.”
Cue the Jackie Chan “Waaaaa?” meme.
The book was written nearly a hundred years ago. The filmmakers’ job is to take what is great about the story and make it work for today’s audiences. Branagh doesn’t even try to do that. I didn’t know 70-year-old grandmas were target audiences these days.
Murder on the Orient Express isn’t a terribly made movie, but we all would have been better off if the avalanche that hits the train a quarter of the way in had just killed everyone. The movie is nearly lifeless, with a murder mystery that is DOA. Do yourself a favor and book an Amtrak as far away from this boredom-inducing fare as quickly as possible.
*For the record, my Dad also watched the movie. He said he liked it, but also admitted he fell asleep in a few parts. Cue the Jackie Chan meme once again.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.