Murder on the Orient Express 😐 Movie Review

Written by Thelonia

The main question that comes to mind when seeing the trailer for Murder on the Orient Express is: how did so many talented actors say yes to this movie? But there are so many other questions, like: why is Imagine Dragons here (and who is making who a Believer?) Why is there Neon everywhere? What in God's name is on Kenneth Branagh's face? I do not have much of an explanation for the first two, apart from the desperate attempts of a marketing team to make the movie look more exciting than the final product wound up being, and I can only assume the last was the result of no oversight, but we can definitely dig in and try to figure out what the hell is happening in the rest of this train wreck of a movie.

Based off of the Agatha Christie character who first appeared in a story in 1920, Hercule Poirot is a Belgian (not French!) Detective who is mostly recognizable via his accent and his mustache, which he is heavily invested in. He is fastidious and ingenious and lives in England where he constantly laments the weather and the food, and in this 2017 film, an adaptation of the 1934 book of the same name, is played by Kenneth Branagh, with all the subtlety of an elephant crammed into a tiny clown car.

And to be clear, all the following criticisms are based off of my love of the David Suchet Poirot, not the 1974 Murder on the Orient Express, which I have actually never seen.

We only love and respect one Poirot in this house, and it's not KENNETH FUCKING BRANAGH.

In this 2017 adaptation, Poirot, hot off the heels of a series of cases, the last one being in Israel, must return to England to assist in an important case (what is it? doesn't matter, it's never going to be addressed again), and so hops on the Orient Express for a quick (and stylish) trip home. But little does the illustrious Hercule Poirot know that instead of the quick and painless ride he hopes for, the trip turns into yet another murder (you'd really think he'd get used to having those happen literally anywhere he goes by now).

I mean, first things first, I cannot express to you how baffling and bad Poirot's mustache is in this.

It has layers and they're all terrible!
I can only assume that Branagh walked into a room, in which dozens of mustaches were laid before him, only for him to choose this one, thinking of the BOUNDLESS COMEDY that could result from it. If only someone could have told him that you can't base a character off of "mustache, accent, Monk-like OCD that is heavily leaned on early on and then gets forgotten about because it doesn't matter at all."

You'd think that any problems with Branagh's performance would be helped at least by the (admittedly great) supporting cast, but unfortunately, they are given very little to do, considering there are over 10 of them, and every single one of them has to sacrifice screen time so we can look at Branagh solve perhaps the stupidest mystery.

Pretty sure some of these people only have lines in about one (1) scene.
This backup cast is almost bafflingly stellar, to an extent where it is a bit infuriating to see them underutilized as they are here. There are, of course, weak links, though most don't have parts big enough for you to notice. An exception is Leslie Odom Jr., whom I love, but who has the hardest time maintaining an English accent, to the point where it is almost entirely unrecognizable as an accent for the first few scenes (when someone explicitly states that he's English, there was a moment of "oooh that's what's happening with his voice," which is never a great sign of a performance). Odom and Daisy Ridley are the characters other than Branagh who do have the most screen time, and though they are cute as buttons, they're deeply uninteresting as characters.

But gosh-darnit, they sure are cute.

And if you're worried about having to look at Johnny Depp's face for an extended period of time, since he's apparently still getting cast in things (get thee behind me, Crimes of Grindelwald), then don't be. Even though I wish they'd not cast him at all, at least here he is the Gangster who (SPOILERS), becomes the murdered body around which the mystery revolves. (SPOILERS OVER) Depp also, despite being literally born and raised in the US, manages to deliver a performance that suggests he's only seen parodies of 30s Gangster movies, and has based his accent entirely on that.

But he did let us see him get stabbed a whole bunch, so thanks for that Johnny Depp.

If you know the ending to the original mystery, then you know how this one will end too, though there's a few attempts to make it more 'exciting' by adding shoot-outs and a chase scene that feels like it's over before it begins. And it is hard, particularly with a film with a budget like this one, to get away with the pure preposterous-ness of the plot itself, particularly when it comes down to the dramatic "this is who did it and how" scene at the end (always a necessary when delivering a good mystery, as far as I'm concerned, but why did they have to set them up like it was the Last Supper?).

There were just too many strings left hanging that didn't make sense (why do the whole charade with the kimono? why not just toss the knife out the window? how did anything involving the plot get set up?), and what was there was tonally odd and too inconsistent to settle you in for what you are watching. After all, what fun's a mystery if you're too involved in the mystery of how the movie got made?

Murder on the Orient Express is currently in theaters. 


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