Mysteries, a genre that intrigues so many with complex tales, intertangled deception, and often drama to help build suspense before the big revelation. While many people try to combine mystery with other genres, there are those who choose to focus on mystery alone. One of these artists is Agatha Christie, a forefront writer who continues to tease our brains with crimes that dive into deeper levels. And with great literature, comes great grounds for Hollywood to make movies from it. This particular tale has gotten a remake this weekend, one with a star-studded cast to try to bring people into the movies in this modern telling. What’s in store? Please read on to find out as we review Murder On The Orient Express.
Setting: Start off with a simple like, this film is a shining example of green screen visuals blending with real world shots. The snowy wilderness of the mountains is a dazzling spectacle of symbolism that mirrors the foreboding crime that hangs over the Orient Express. It’s a breathtaking display of technology that keeps the darker spirit of the movie alive, and may leave you chilled at the menacing nature hanging in the air. But the highlight is the train and the recreation of those elegant cars and cabins the locomotive industry was famous for. This recreation takes you back in time and immerses you in the classical setting, while also designing a death trap to which our players partake in.
The Mystery: For a movie that focuses on the classic question of who done it, Murder on The Orient Express did a nice job keeping the mystery going. The screen adaptation drops enough hints to throw one off the path, all while keeping you engaged in deciphering the identity of the culprit. As our detective interviews all the characters, you will start getting an idea of how complex the whole case is, further shrouding the scene in a veil that tries to keep you from the answer. It works, keeping suspense going and the film moving, which isn’t easy in mysteries these days.
Kenneth Branagh: Acting wise all the cast do their jobs very well, some better than others in terms of screen time, elegance, and of course capturing their accents down correctly. Yet of all the group… it was Kenneth Branagh who I enjoyed watching the most. True, he is the main character and thus gets the most screen time, but his acting was very enjoyable to watch for nearly 2 hours. His French accent is not the best at times, but he gets the OCD detective role down pat, catching the nervous energy and single minded focus that comes with the disorder. His explanations of the crime are delivered in such a serious tone, confidence filling the voice as he presents his logic and convinces you of all the facts. Finally, his comedic delivery is also very well done, not too forced and well-integrated into the conversations, Branagh carries a lot of the movie on his sharply dressed shoulders.
Slow: We know mysteries have to go slow to build things up, but Orient’s wheels really slog at times. Primarily when it comes to linking a few backstories together, the movie sort of derails into from the path at hand. Losing this momentum takes away from the suspense, and sort of gets a yawn if you don’t pay close attention to the dialogue. And even when they resume chasing the mystery once more… they drag things out in a grandiose display that does hold emotion, but steps far over the line for this reviewer.
Unbalanced Characters: A star studded cast again calls for time management and using your resources well. Orient took a nice shot, but they failed to really give the characters equal time on the screen. I don’t know how the book is written, but it was obvious the casting favored certain actors over others. Certain characters really get the shaft in this installment, brought out of the shadows for mere seconds and a few answers, before dropping off the screen. This happened with at least four characters for me, brief introductions that were certainly important, but almost confusing at some points. Certainly, Christie did better in displaying her suspects in the book, but they didn’t do it as well as I think they could.
Rushed development: It’s a plus to have a mystery that moves, it is not so much a plus when your key development areas move like a blur. Murder on the Orient Express involves one having to listen to the dialogue extensively to piece things together, primarily in the alibis of the characters. For me, there were a lot of rapid dialogue exchanges that hastily were spilled out in an attempt to give our characters some background. This background information is incredibly important, so perhaps they should have shifted to a lower gear to clarify this information and establish that depth they were going for. Such a shame to have all these details smeared in a half-sloppy manner when there was such potential to be had.
Compared to the book and the older rendition of this movie, Murder on The Orient Express 2017 is not the shiniest noire in the box. Great visuals, a luring mystery, a phenomenal main character will carry the audience far in this film and provide the main source of entertainment in the film. The main problem is that the team didn’t deliver on the potential that this story/cast had. It was unnecessarily slow at points, characters were lacking in a very character centric plot, and it was rushed in areas that was the sustenance. Therefore, the movie overall is mediocre, and better left for a free pass/RedBox in this reviewer’s opinion.
My scores are:
Movie Overall: 6.0