Movie: Murder on the Orient Express
Production Companies: TSG Entertainment, Kinberg Genre, The Mark Gordon Company, Scott Free Productions
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Producers: Ridley Scott, Mark Gordon, Simon Kinberg, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund, Michael Schaefer
Scriptwriter: Michael Green
Main Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Tom Bateman, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad
Release Date: November 10th 2017 (US)
Running Time: 114 minutes
Just like another famous detective it appears the game is afoot… While that was a terrible segue, 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express was definitely something. Despite the stacked cast and the fact it was shot on 65mm film, a shoddy screenplay hampered it’s true potential. Kind of like Death on the Nile as well…. Anyway, with the latest Poirot film A Haunting in Venice set to come out, why not take a look back at the film which started Kenneth Branagh’s run as the detective? So without further ado let’s get into my review of the film.
Shockingly enough, Murder on the Orient Express is an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic book of the same name. It follows world renowned Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) as he is roped into investigating the murder of Edward Ratchett/ John Cassetti (Depp) where just about everyone on the train is a suspect. Naturally, the film has more twists in it than the Smiler as Poirot has to work through the entire train assuming they are the ones who murdered Cassetti so he has to work quickly to stop everything going off the rails. Yep, I’m definitely on track with the train puns. Now with the synopsis out of the way, let’s get into the analysis portion of the review.
Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express
Firstly, I know it’s been said before but the stacked nature of this cast is insane which definitely helps the film out. Mostly, because Branagh’s old school approach to film really benefits his role as Hercule Poirot in a way that it didn’t work out for him when he was directing Thor 1 and 2. Now, whatever your thoughts on Branagh changing the character’s fussiness to more obsessive and compulsive tendencies he does give a good account of the character in spite of the script’s limitations.
And don’t worry I’ll touch on that later. In terms of the other performances, there’s not that much going as the writer clearly ran out of steam after writing Poirot. Just look at that cast and tell me how many of them were that memorable other than Depp who gets murdered within the first act. It feels like a crime that so many big names go underutilized, especially some of the female characters. The last time I saw female characters this underutilized I was watching Once Upon A Time in Hollywood….
The Cast in Murder on the Orient Express
Speaking of the film’s script, it proves that even an all star cast and stylised presentation can’t save a mediocre script. Simply put, it runs out of steam before it ever really gets going which is a shame. Just look at the fact it almost solely focuses on Poirot, often at the detriment of the rest of the cast. For a slightly weird comparison, look at the Doctor Who episode Mummy on the Orient Express.
Despite the Doctor obviously being the main character, valuable time is afforded to the supporting cast in order for the audience to get on board with them. Now when compared to Murder on the Orient Express, besides Poirot the supporting cast maybe get one or two character traits between them thus reducing the amount of interest the audience has in seeing how their (limited) arc progresses. So, what we can take from this is if you’re a Kenneth Branagh fan you’re going to love this.
To summarise Murder on the Orient Express, this is a fine enough film which occasionally drifts into a Hercule Poirot vanity project, unfortunately at the expense of the very talented supporting cast. But like I said, if you love Kenneth Branagh as both an actor and director you’ll always love his trilogy of Poirot outings. Hopefully, the latest outing doesn’t tread water too much…..
Overall Rating: 5.5/10 – Above Average
Target Audience: 12+
Content Warning: Moderate Violence and Gore, Mild Profanity, Mild Alcohol, Drugs and Smoking, Moderate Frightening and Intense Scenes