Kenneth Branagh Penelope Cruz Willem Dafoe Judi Dench Johnny Depp Michelle Pfeiffer
Daisy Ridley Leslie Odom, Jr. Josh Gad Derek Jacobi Olivia Colman
Murder on the Orient Express should be an exciting, engaging, production of a beloved author’s work (Agatha Christie). Kenneth Branagh, more acclaimed as an actor than a director, fills both roles here, but is not exemplary in either, and perhaps the script (Michael Green) bears some of the responsibility. A good detective story subtly plants clues, explicates the detective’s reasoning process, and guides the reader along in the story. But the story here comes across as too convoluted to make sense. I found a number of problems in this production, foremost being Branagh as Poirot, a role stamped in my mind as a David Suchet character. Although Branagh attempts to convey the preciseness and impressive deductive abilities of Poirot, these simply do not come across clearly; they’re too English (rather than Belgian), and rather than a neat mustache, Branagh sports what looks like a gray rag across his upper lip.
Many of the first scenes on the inside of the train are hazy, dark and difficult to discern what is taking place, despite the work of talented production designer, Jim Clay, and cinematographer, Haris Zambarloukos.
The fault cannot be in the stars; the cast for this film being a large group of highly accomplished actors, including Branagh, along with Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Odom, Jr., Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley, and Olivia Colman. Johnny Depp is on the screen only briefly, but plays his role well.
The plot adheres loosely to the novel, in which a group of passengers board the Orient Express in Istanbul bound for numerous European stations along the way; but the train derails in a storm, and the passengers are stranded until repairs can be made. During this time, a murder is committed, and with Poirot on board, he is called upon to solve the case, despite his being on holiday. Earlier, he had been approached by the victim, asking for his protection, because the man was convinced that someone was out to kill him. The man wants to prevent a murder (his) before it happens. Poirot refuses for reasons he states very clearly. When the murder does take place, Poirot must solve the crime, which is the only intriguing part of this film, but delivered in a way that is hard to follow with the flurry of names and historical events.
This film seems to be a big miss for an Agatha Christie story.
Grade: D+ By Donna R. Copeland