“An edgier, slightly more adult polar express.” That’s how I explained Murder on the Orient Express to my aunt when she had asked my thoughts. I had never picked up the novels by author, Agatha Christie, or the original movie, nor had I even known about their existence prior to witnessing the trailer, but the premise of the idea looked interesting as well as the tone. It looked like a generally really intriguing movie with a brilliant cast and brilliant visuals (and might I say, brilliant song chosen for the trailer but I digress). What I left from was lackluster in comparison to expectations. If anything, the acting was decent, the pacing was flawed, but the overall stand out was indeed the effects and nothing more.
Murder on the Orient Express is the essentially the story of the “greatest detective in the world”, Hercule Poirot (portrayed by Kenneth Branagh) as a murder occurs on one of the best trains in existence, The Orient. When a sudden avalanches stalls it in it’s tracks, Poirot is left to investigate a murder that had occurred just the night prior.
What I have learned in the past year is that films with a star studded cast predicted to be phenomenal will always be mediocre at best. It was the case with Collateral Beauty, and despite my better judgement, I went in to Orient with much the same expectations. To my dismay, I was met with the same mediocre performances which was a disappointment due to the talent the cast included. With big names like Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Johnny Depp, and rising stars such as Daisy Ridley and Josh Gad it seemed like a diverse set of characters all rolled up into one beautiful murder mystery. It quickly became apparent upon Ridley’s first line that they hired them for the names, and not for the direction. With great talent comes great responsibility to direct them, and there was no direction.
I will say that there was one actor that stood out to me, and that was Branagh himself. I enjoyed his character the entire time, which is more than I can say for the rest. If anything, the other’s and I had an on again off again relationship. The way the acting was done was reminiscent of film noir, but cheaper and much less enticing. They were not particularly bad, just dull, and nothing quite stuck out save for Branagh.
Another issue I found to be quite annoying was the time. Having recently gotten involved with the murder mystery genre and been looking for new things to quench my thirst for angst, I went in expecting a tad too much from the pacing when it came down to it’s run time of just under two hours. It should be noted that mysteries need time to unfold, to unravel, to drop subtle hints of the murderer and confused the audience (while it did not confuse me, my guesses were never right, if that accounts for anything) however it does not have the time to do that. What the film does, instead, is simply give you conflicting reasonings head on, and leaves you to figure out the rest. There is nothing subtle about the final reveal, nothing audiences could pick up on to begin with. I would even go as far as to say it was right in front of their eyes, but that would be a perk.
It was a love hate relationship with the big reveal, because while I did not predict it per se, it also did not astonish me. There was no magic, and instead I was left simply nodding and understanding exactly what was going on. In Orient Express, it simply is, and that is all. I feel that had it been paced slower, and allowed the audience time to consider all possible options with subtle hints here and there to throw them off, a red herring or two, it may have been a tad better, but again- it was only two hours, not even enough time to give characters some brownie points for a tragic backstory (and there were many).
Where the film did well was the effects, I will give it that. Everywhere else was lackluster however the effects were beautiful, and the setting was modern and vibrant while also still keeping the mood of the movie consistent. When said big reveal is indeed revealed, there is a montage in which was filmed so beautifully it was almost hypnotic, and I commend the visual designers for their hard work because it truly did pay off.
Was the film worth buying? No. Is it worth a ten dollar ticket? That depends on the circumstance. I could see Orient Express being a good date movie, or a movie used for the entertainment, but to go in and expect a masterpiece in any sense of the word other than visual may leave you with regrets like myself. It was entertaining, even given its flaws, but perhaps just maybe a story like Hercule's his film should have stayed on the pages, which i look forward to read.