Murder on the Orient Express (2017) — A quaint whodunnit

“I detect criminals. I do not protect them.”

Justin’s rating: Just putting this out there, but have you seen how many variations there are on Clue these days? It’s gotten downright weird, people!

Justin’s review: I cannot be the only person who got so wrapped up in the wonderfulness of Knives Out that I immediately started casting about for another great whodunnit fix. I can’t be, right? And if you need a reliable source of murder mysteries, there’s no better source than Agatha Christie.

My mom was a big Christie fan when I was younger. She was always reading the books and watching the TV specials. At the time, most of it went well over my head, but today? I might be able to grasp a couple of the basic plot twists.

Shakespeare fanatic Kenneth Branagh decided that he wanted a turn or two in the mustache of Christie’s famous Hercule Poirot. And what better way than to both direct and cast yourself as the lead actor in a remake of Murder on the Orient Express? Branagh is a wonderful enough actor, I don’t begrudge him the indulgence.

I don’t think Branagh had to twist anyone’s arm to jump into a lavishly decorated train filled with the colorful personalities and heightened drama that classic whodunnits provoked. This film is packed with star talent, including Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leslie Odom Jr., and Daisy Ridley (among others). I think that sometimes even the Hollywood elite want to get dressed to the nines and roleplay living in classic opulent times.

Murder on the Orient Express strives from its first minutes to bowl over the audience with sublime style, wry humor, and the aforementioned personalities, and I, for one, was more than willing to let it. It broadcasts in its music, color, and witticisms, “You’re going to have a great time! No, really!” leaving me anticipating the two hours spent on a vacation train cruising across the old world.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Agatha Christie novel without a murder — and so it happens on the Express. Branagh’s Poirot then is called into action to bring his Sherlock Holmesian deductive methods into play by sorting out motives, clues, and timetables.

When you’ve got a film where almost every moment could be framed and hung on a wall to admire, it feels indulgent to be treated to a heaping of humor. It helps to keep my patience when navigating many scenes of people simply talking. It’s a very talky movie that slows down after a while, asking you to pay attention about motives and history. It’s here that the film lost some steam.

Compared to Knives Out, Murder on the Orient Express comes across as quaint and old fashioned. Don’t get me wrong, some of that old fashioned tone is welcome indeed. But the plot isn’t nearly as complex or satisfying in the end, and I found myself purged of a whodunnit whim long before the end credits arrived.

Didja notice?

  • Somebody really likes his eggs perfect
  • “I know your mustache from the papers!”
  • Introducing us to the train by a tour from the outside windows is pretty neat
  • “I am equally disappointed in you. This is nice!”
  • “I loved that turnip!”
  • “You tortured my darling doggie!”
  • The scene filmed top-down

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