Review: Star-studded cast revives ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ with new spin

Photo Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

By Bailey Brammer | Editor-in-Chief

Not to be cliche, but in the case of Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel, “Murder on the Orient Express,” the book was most certainly better than the movie. The film, which opened Friday with ticket sales our $28.2 million, according to the New York Times, was intriguing and had beautiful cinematography, despite being a bit slow at times.

“Murder on the Orient Express” centers on the great Belgian sleuth, Hecule Poirot (Branagh), who is known in the 1930s as the “greatest detective in the world.” The film begins with Poirot solving a mystery at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, attempting to give himself a claim to fame, and somewhat succeeding.

Poirot runs into an old friend, Bouc, (Tom Bateman) who suggests that Poirot take a holiday aboard his father’s train, the Orient Express. An interesting cast of passengers slightly resembling the game of Clue awaits Poirot on the train, all of which seemingly have nothing in common; big name stars in the film include Michelle Pfieffer, Daisy Ridley, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom Jr. and of course, the ever-talented chameleon Johnny Depp.

After a few awkward encounters and remarks on the first day of the journey, the train is derailed in the middle of the night. The next morning, Poirot discovers the body of Edward Ratchett (Depp) in one of the first-class cabins with 12 stab wounds. Bouc begs Poirot to help solve the murder, whereas in the novel, Poirot hardly needed convincing to dive into another mystery.

Poirot narrows his search for the murderer to only include the passengers within the same cabin, and slowly pieces together the solution with a random assortment of clues involving a red kimono and a pipe cleaner. Although it is evident that Poirot is indeed a great detective, he certainly takes his time determining who killed Ratchett, and the lulls in action were hard to get through at times.

In spite of these brief stalling points, however, the final15 minutes of the movie are filled with suspense and drama, even though the rest of the movie sorely lacks jump scares. The solution to the crime is definitely still shocking, and if you haven’t read the book beforehand and can’t figure it out with minimal clues, you will certainly be surprised.

Although Poirot’s mustache is impressive, it often detracts from the scenes, especially when Poirot is discussing something that is meant to be serious. Despite this distraction, the filmmakers did a beautiful job with the cinematography, using unique overhead angles and shots from outside the train looking in to tell the story in a different way. I almost enjoyed the camera angles and scenery more than I did the plot.

Regardless of the semi-boring storyline, the acting was still notable. Each of the suspects has a distinct personality, and the actors are well-suited to their roles, particularly Pfieffer and Ridley. Branagh also delivers an excellent Poirot, complete with very specific quirks and nuances that are present in Christe’s novel.

If you too tend to prefer books to movie adaptations as I do, “Murder on the Orient Express” may not be your favorite film, but is still definitely worth seeing because of the well-known cast … you may just want to wait until it comes out on Netlfix. If you do, however, think that you’d enjoy a mixture of “Clue” and “The Polar Express,” the film is currently playing at the Waco Hippodrome, AMC Classic Galaxy 16 and Regal Jewel Stadium 16 in IMAX and standard showings.