Renowned author Agatha Christie has been celebrated as the world’s best-selling author of all time. Most of her works were of the detective novel variety with fictional detective Hercule Poirot at the center of many of these intriguing stories. Of all of her novels (66 to be exact), Murder on the Orient Express which was published in 1934 is widely considered one of her best novels. The 1974 film adaptation was a large success for its time and is still considered on of the best. Kenneth Branagh is trying to bring this classic back to life to introduce a refined culture in the form of an “updated” Murder on the Orient Express to a new generation. Will it work is the question?
Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is busy doing what he does best, wrapping up a mystery thus allowing him a much needed break. While looking to escape a life of detective work, if only for a couple of weeks, he instead stumbles upon a crime that will require all of his focus if he is to unravel this latest murder mystery. While aboard a train and interacting with his various fellow passengers, Hercule begins to see a picture that only his trained eyes could, there’s a mystery brewing. One of the train’s passengers is murdered and it is up to Hercule to unravel this murder mystery.
Murder on the Orient Express can boast a talent-filled cast with the likes of Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley and, of course its main star and director, Kenneth Branagh. With so many top tier actors, it’s challenging to get them the appropriate screen time needed to get audiences to buy in and become attached. The one actor that gets the full run of the place is Branagh, which should come as very little surprise considering that he’s the story’s main subject.
There isn’t enough to be excited about in regards to Murder on the Orient Express. To say that it lacks originality would be unfair. Still, remaking a movie that’s based on bestselling novel while also trying to preserve its original feel is tricky. The 1974 version of this film was very well received and there was little hope that the Kenneth Branagh remake could go give it a run for its money. Even with its talented roster of actors, it still comes across as somewhat flat and disappointing. I suspect Branagh’s attempt at staying so true to its original vision will ultimately be its downfall. Like it or not, times have changed and audiences, at least the ones you’re hoping will be drawn to this movie, expect so much more.
A good old-fashioned murder mystery doesn’t get people up, out and into theaters like it used to. While decently acted, there are no performances that will be conversation worthy after spending two hours getting acquainted with these characters. An audience with a more classical taste may find Murder on the Orient Express entertaining, but the masses won’t see things that way. I’d recommend checking it out at matinee prices, otherwise wait for it to roll into your homes. You can see this one in theaters now.