Murder on the Orient Express

Remake

         
 

10 November 2017| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

 

Murder mystery done with good taste, amplified by splendid mountainous terrain. Kenneth Branagh directs Murder on the Orient Express based on the famous Agatha Christie novel, and has him star too as the world’s greates+t detective, the Belgian Hercule Poirot, who has the most eccentric of silver-grey mustaches. After a prologue announces it is 1934 Jerusalem, the obsessive-compulsive detective quickly solves a crime with three men of the cloth accused of theft. That opening is a little nibbler to showcase his genius (supposedly). From there, he finds himself on a scenic train trip where he has quasi-clever conversations with a dozen or so travelers, all of whom become suspects of the titular crime with a smarmy Johnny Depp as the fallen, that will be solved in the fashion of Old Hollywood genre pictures.

The all-star cast of suspects include Judi Dench, Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe and Michelle Pfeiffer as the one chatterbox flirt with the most dialogue. Yes, Pfeiffer stands out. So does Josh Gad. Some of the other actors have only the lightest of dialogue to waft through.

The movie is all suspense. Yet the movie had absolutely zero suspense for me, and that’s simply because I’ve seen the 1974 Sidney Lumet version of “Murder on the Orient Express.” As for that being the case, I had not much to look forward to since I really did know the ending in advance. I did find minor pleasures within to make the time pass. I was able to suck in the glorious backgrounds that look great if looking too much like computer wallpaper, feast upon the glittery costumes, and amuse myself by mentally picking on which actors’ straining accents were the worst. The hammy Branagh doesn’t go hammy enough, and as a result goes into low, inflected, maudlin vocal tones that it made it hard for me to understand key phrases. If I could have seen it on DVD, I would have had the subtitle track on so I’d catch every missed word.

If you are completely unspoiled and don’t know the ending and don’t know Agatha Christie all that well, I suppose Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express” makes for a fine, mild diversion with some chuckles to boot. If you’re an odd moviegoer, and you want to know which version to see… well, I like Branagh’s eccentric  incarnation of the detective better than Albert Finney’s except on the few occasions where I couldn’t understand him. I liked the opulent stylishness of the train’s interiors. Somehow, though, I think I would still prefer the simplicity of the 1974 film, which in my recollection, told the story just a little bit better.

So with this one, is it faint praise if I call it an old-fashioned nice effort?

114 Minutes. Rated PG-13.

MYSTERY-SUSPENSE / THINKING TEENS / AFTERNOON DIVERSION 

Film Cousins: “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974); “Agatha” (1979); “Terror Train” (1980); “The Commuter” (2018).

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Sean Chavel
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Murder on the Orient Express
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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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