Aug 29, 2018

[Movies] Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Review

The Agatha Christie mystery novels have always been something that I've heard about or encountered as a reference but for one reason or another I've never taken the time to read any of them. To be fair, it's not like classic mystery novels have ever been my thing.

Murder on the Orient Express is a movie based on one of her more popular books with a crazy diverse cast of notable acting talent. I wasn't sure how to react to the initial trailers for the movie since it seemed to mirror a lot of the marketing for more millennial-oriented shows of a similar tone.

There is something about gathering a cast of high profile names from the acting industry to make a movie together. It is either something super epic in scope or it's something that's relying more on star power to get audiences interested. And it's easy to think that way about this movie given how it all panned out.

Synopsis: Murder on the Orient Express is a mystery drama movie directed by Kenneth Branagh. The screenplay was written by Michael Green as based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name.

It's 1934 and the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is shown solving a case in Jerusalem and deciding to rest in Istanbul. However he is called to London for another case. As he is friends with the director of the Simplon-route Orient Express service, he is able to book passage on the train where he meets a wide variety of fellow passengers. But not all is well when an avalanche stops the train's progress by derailing the engine.

In the morning Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) is discovered dead with evidence of multiple stab wounds all over his body. Naturally Poirot looks into the murder and tries to determine the killer, who is inevitably one of the other people also on the train. And as is the way of these things, it is soon revealed that Ratchett made a lot of enemies and many of the passengers may have their reasons to want to see him dead.

What I Liked: With a cast this amazing, there are some stellar performances all around. A lot of thought went into cast selection and the resulting mix was pretty great and worked well together. And it's not even like everyone had to be overly quirky or closer to a caricature of real people. Everyone mostly came across as quite believable and earnest in pursuing their specific aspirations.

The overall feel of things is totally polished, and that really helped things feel more authentic. There's a lot of attention to detail that affects everything from the costumes, the styling and of course the train set itself. There's a lot of magic at work indeed.

What Could Have Been Better: I don't know if Poirot was really written this way but his supposed powers of deduction seemed to involve a lot of leaps in logic or assertions that didn't really seem to connect to evidence on-hand. In that sense his skills sometimes feel just a little too good to be believable, and that affected how the movie came across. And when it feels like it's not possible for members of the audience to also find the clues that Poirot finds that leads to the final conclusion does sort of cheapen the mystery for me, but that may be a personal opinion more than anything else.

On the whole there's something very subdued about the movie that may be due to the fact that there was a big effort to be faithful to the book and that lead to a lot of details that needed to be crammed in, thus somewhat bloating the movie and slowing the overall pacing of things. The stakes never really felt like they were high or suspenseful throughout most of the movie and it was odd from a movie with a big mystery at the center.

TL;DR: Murder on the Orient Express was beautiful but not all that engaging and the ending didn't really feel like a big fulfillment of an investigation. This depiction of Poirot is odd for his OCD-tendencies and his near-perfect ability to deduce things from little to no evidence, thus making his harder to believe. And thus the movie only gets 3 ill motives from the passengers out of a possible 5.

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