Review: Murder on the Orient Express

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The film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel hit film screens on the 3rd November and I had the chance to see it in all the glory of an Odeon ISENSE screen.

Heading into the cinema I had high hopes for the film, directed by Shakespeare titan Kenneth Branagh. The all star cast added to the intrigue and mystique of a classic ‘whodunit’ story. With names like Dame Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe and Olivia Colman, I knew the acting would be of a high standard. Unfortunately, there would be more than one type of murder occurring.

Big cast, small results

The acting was really the only high point of the film. Branagh, playing the lead role of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, nailed the charming and sophisticated nature of the character. Josh Gad delivered a solid performance as the crook McQueen and Michelle Pfeiffer stood out as the cunning Caroline Hubbard. The rest of the cast gave good performances but were not allowed to flourish individually due to the lack of time given to their characters. This is perhaps my biggest issue with Murder on the Orient Express, along with its pacing. 

Besides Poirot and Hubbard, there was never any real elaboration on the characters, bar a couple lines of expositional dialogue. I didn’t have a chance to become attached to the characters and so didn’t care at any point what happened to them. They could have all been killed off one by one and I wouldn’t have burst into tears, screaming at the sky demanding to know why the writing Gods could do such a thing. It was a shame to have screen acting giants reduced to one dimensional characters.

Mr. Ratchett, as played by Johnny Depp

Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race

The pacing of the film was far too slow. I felt there was no urgency to solve the murder and there were no time constraints at work either. The plot was trickling along at walking pace and left me unmotivated to try and solve the murder myself. There were moments when it went up a gear and some semblances of tension came through, but they only sometimes hit the mark.

The cinematography in the film was gorgeous. All the locations were vibrant and visually stunning. From the hustle and bustle of Istanbul to the picturesque Italian Aosta Valley in the Western Alps. The scenery and atmosphere was captivating and set a marvellous backdrop for the film. The Murder on the Orient Express did Christie’s words justice in this instance. The set design also deserves a mention too, being well designed and intricate.

Final thoughts

Overall, I’d give it a 6/10. The film was largely disappointing. It lacked substance, tension and a well moving plot line. The acting and set design were excellent of course, however they couldn’t cover up the cracks. You’d be forgiven for thinking the train never quite left the station.