Movie Review: Another Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express
Movie Review: Another Murder on the Orient Express
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville nearly 20 years. Currently, he studies Journalism at Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Murder on the Orient Express has been gorgeously remade with precision and charm. Fox’s new version brings the popular murder mystery story to new and old audiences. But the film’s cleanliness will impact your enjoyment; old audiences may be detracted by the brightness. New audiences will be pleasantly (or not) surprised.

Director and star Kenneth Branagh spared no expense dressing Murder on the Orient Express. He exercises the same creative indulgence and positivity in his best period dramas, like 1996’s Hamlet and 2015’s Cinderella. But double duty in front and behind the camera have left some details overlooked.

The tone is the film’s largest drawback, bouncing from moment to moment in the story. Where most thriller mysteries are dark, fast, and sharply suspenseful, this one is the opposite. The mood is warm, relaxed, and sometimes whimsical.

Each character is given a pronounced definition, but with such a lavish design, everyone looks too bright. The sophisticated cartoons can give the wrong impression to close-minded or cynical viewers.

What Branagh’s done is made the murder more palatable. This relief comes at the expense of dramatic tension, expected in this genre. But it does make Murder on the Orient Express uniquely fun.

Murder on the Orient Express is perhaps one of the best-known mystery stories in the English language: It follows Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) traveling to London aboard a luxurious train. After the train is stopped by snow, a passenger is discovered murdered. And now, Poirot must solve the case.

Murder on the Orient Express

Photo: 20th Century Fox

The film is the fourth film adaptation of Christie’s famous novel, and second on the big screen after the acclaimed 1974 movie and television films in 2001 and 2010. What makes this newest version different is how clean and well-produced it is.

This Murder is spick and span, nearly flawless across its production design, music, cinematography and even use of film. Almost every detail is meticulous, and the result is a stunning display. The true highlights are the luscious sets and the pure acting talent from a cavalcade of actors.

And what a cast! In one of the greatest ensembles ever made, not a single performer is less than fascinating. Aside from Poirot’s excessive screen time, every other actor nails their short time on screen.

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A special nod should be made for Tom Bateman as train director Bouc. He’s the only main character without poster billing, but his acting is brilliant.

Still, the final result is somewhat underwhelming. The film is easy to watch and curiously detailed. The experience of watching the plot unfold with such ease and skill is similar to the pleasant sensation of wandering an art museum. It’s not disappointing, though it isn’t always effective in a murder mystery movie.

If you know the famous twist ending, you’ll be delighted to know the big reveal is unquestionably the best in the movie. It’s expertly shot, written, and Branagh’s best moment of acting. The most satisfying elements on screen outnumber those less so, and the final product is (inconsistently) enjoyable.

Some moments are meddling. Some in the middle feel muddled. But the train keeps chugging nonetheless. It’s less than captivating for those who know the story. But for new viewers? It’s a smooth ride on a stunning train.

Murder on the Orient Express
2 1/2 out of 4 stars

PG, 114 minutes. Mystery Drama.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.

The ensemble cast stars Kenneth Branagh, along with Tom Bateman, Lucy Boynton, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley.

Here are more current movie reviews by Tyler Collins. For more movie news and reviews, you can follow him on Twitter at @MrTyCollins.

Correction: [Friday, November 10th, 12:00 pm] An earlier version of this story described the main character Hercule Poirot as French, wherein all versions of the story (including this film) the character is Belgian.

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