When a movie revolves around a murder and makes you wonder who the killer is, it really needs to do a great job in getting you invested in the characters at hand. 2017’s adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie novel may just be one of the most disappointing films I’ve seen all year because it fails to do the one thing that a murder mystery is meant to do, which is to keep you interested from beginning to end. There are many things to gawk at when watching this film, but the story itself definitely isn’t one of them. This rendition of Murder on the Orient Express, even though I haven’t read the original material or see the other adaptations, is quite the bore and here is why I just can’t get myself to really recommend this movie to anyone.
Without a doubt, this movie is wonderfully directed by Kenneth Branagh, but the screenplay for this film ranks pretty low on the scale in terms of Michael Green’s previous works. Having written terrific films in Logan and Blade Runner 2049, his past works also include Alien: Covenant and Green Lantern, which were far less than stellar, so I could clearly see a mixture of good and bad throughout this particular screenplay. Focusing mostly on the character of Hercule Poirot, the rest of the passengers are left by the wayside, which is where I feel the film suffers the most.
Getting to know Poirot, Murder on the Orient Express begins in giving the audience a bit of backstory into what is character is all about and once the train gets going, having his character slowly beginning to interact with each of the passengers, the movie seemed to be moving along at a brisk pace, but a certain event occurs, leaving a passenger dead, while also bringing the movie to a complete halt. Everything leading up to the eventual murder on the train was interesting to me, but for reasons that can’t be explained here without spoiling, I truly found myself not caring who committed the crime and the movie ended up losing me quite early on.
As far as twists and turns go, Murder on the Orient Express does its very best to trick the audience, but the outcome was very strange to me, making the rest of the movie sort of feel irrelevant. There are many characters to try and flesh out here, and I understand that’s a very difficult task to accomplish in scripting a feature film, but when certain characters were given backstories, I felt as though I should begin to care about them more than the others, but in reality, the notion of not really caring about the outcome kept running through my mind. Nearly every aspect of this story was uninteresting to me, but I can’t deny that it looks beautiful.
From the sweeping landscapes to the way the camera angles helped move the story along, I found myself immersed in a film that I didn’t really care about, which was a pretty frustrating experience. After the conclusion of each big scene, I was sucked back in my rapid-fire dialogue by Kenneth Branagh, only to be bored by overlong sequences of conversations, with only a handful of them being of any interest. This movie had so much potential of being great, but I can’t even really call it a good movie.
In the end, this rendition of Murder on the Orient Express tries to be classy and clever, and while the main character of Hercule Poirot is interesting and likable, the cinematography is beautiful, and many of the side characters curious enough to hold my interest, the story itself was sort of a dread to sit through. The conclusion felt odd and nothing felt like much of a revelation to me. I can’t see this movie growing a large fanbase, and due to the lack of pacing and character development, I can’t recommend that anyone rushes out to see this film. At best, I’d consider a home rental if you’re curious, but I don’t think you’re missing out on much if you skip this. Personally, I disliked this film much more than the portions I enjoyed. Murder on the Orient Express is extremely disappointing.