Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Odom Jr, Derek Jacobi, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Tom Bateman
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Agatha Christie’s classic 1934 novel is a lavish but plodding affair. Murder on the Orient Express is directed by Branagh, and also stars the veteran Shakespearean actor as Hercule Poirot, the iconic Belgian detective character who featured in several of the author’s stories.
This one is set on the famed Orient Express that’s barreling across Europe with a disparate bunch of travelers, including an art dealer (Johnny Depp), his private secretary (Josh Gad), an American widow (Michelle Pfeiffer), a Russian princess (Judi Dench), a governess (Daisy Ridley), a devout missionary (Penelope Cruz), and a handful of others, among them Poirot himself. After the train is stopped by a rockslide on the tracks during a snowstorm, one of the passengers is found stabbed to death in his locked compartment. Of course it’s up to Poirot to interrogate the dozen or so strangers to figure out who did it.
The film is crammed with stars, and yet the biggest attention-grabber is Branagh’s oversized mustache that more or less wraps itself around the front of his face. It’s incredibly distracting, and along with his clunky accent, reduces Poirot to a caricature. Branagh also fashions the detective as something of an action hero, giving him a gun, and more than one chase scene. Fans of the book, prepare to be outraged.
The film is extraordinary to look at, boasting exquisite production design, flashy camerawork, gorgeous costumes, and staggeringly beautiful European landscapes. But it’s let down by a script that feels dated and verbose, and unmistakably flat. There’s way too much talking, and not enough sleuthing, leaving the viewer easily bored.
I’m going with two and a half out of five for Murder on the Orient Express. It’s a bloated but underwhelming adaptation that feels as creaky as the train’s wheels. Such a shame.