All style and no substance
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Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Running Time: 114 mins
Murder On The Orient Express is an American film about the events that unfold after a murderer strikes on a derailed train in the icy mountains. Stuck in the same position for days, only the brilliant detective Hercules Poirot can solve the case before death strikes again.
As cool and lavish as it looks on screen, I’m afraid to say that Murder On The Orient Express is a case of style over substance. While it impresses with some fantastic costume and production design, as well as a good few performances from the all-star cast, the film misses out on what should be its primary function: being an exciting and intriguing mystery thriller.
It’s a real shame, because it’s clear from the continued popularity of Agatha Christie’s story that there is something really special to be told here. However, while the film does go through the motions of a typical whodunnit (albeit in very formulaic fashion), it seems like the.mystery at hand comes second to showing off exquisite costumes, A-list celebrities, and state-of-the-art CGI.
And while all that is nice to see, it really shouldn’t be overshadowing a crisp and meticulous mystery. I went into this film not knowing the outcome of the original story, and I have to say that it all feels like a bit of a damp squib, surely not the classic Christie novel that people have been celebrating for decades.
On the whole, the film doesn’t really pull you into the mystery as deep as it should. Sure, it lays out all the clues and interviews all the suspects, but everything just feels a little too detached, as if you’re not really being given enough depth to be able to, or even want to, solve the case itself, but are rather just left watching Poirot do everything for you, thereby missing the most fundamental part of any mystery.
For me, it feels as if that feeling of detachment is simply down to the fact that the film is all style and no substance. At no point did I feel on the edge as Poirot got close to exposing a suspect, nor did I ever feel like there was really that much at stake, not helped by the way the film goes about telling an overly complex back story. However, I did think Poirot’s moustache was pretty cool.
That’s pretty much the gist of it. It’s a classic story that just doesn’t manage to be as exciting, tense or mysterious as it should, simply because your attention is being drawn away to look at all the lovely 1920s design.
Saying that, the 1920s design is pretty lovely, and with so much of the quaintness surrounding you throughout, the film proves a nice little bit of escapism into another time period, which was a good bit of fun to see.
What’s more is that the film’s performances are generally not too bad. A big A-list cast like this is always bound to be a mixed bag, and there are undoubtedly a few of the bigger name actors and actresses that aren’t really on top form, namely Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench and Willem Dafoe.
However, Kenneth Branagh is a lot of fun to watch throughout as Hercules Poirot, appearing to be the actor with the most passion and interest in the story, underlined by the fact that he’s the director of the whole thing. Alongside Branagh, however, some of the younger stars prove entertaining. Although nobody really sinks into their character as much as Branagh, the likes of Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Tom Bateman and Leslie Odom Jr. are all good fun to watch too, helping to make the film as enjoyable as it can be.
Overall, however, I wasn’t all that impressed with Murder On The Orient Express. Yes, it’s a very lavish and stylish film, but it falls down on the core ingredient of a mystery movie, being exciting. As such, it’s often a fairly detached and less than enthralling whodunnit, never managing to grab you with the confidence of its visuals and style, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.9.