Murder on the Orient Express – Film Review

Rating : 2 / 5 stars

What’s it about?
Murder on the Orient Express is the film adaptation of a book by Agatha Christie with the same name and is directed by veteran actor Kenneth Branagh.
Aboard the Orient Express, renowned detective Hercule Poirot is tested like never before when a murder occurs in the cabin next to his, and he is requested by the director of the train company to investigate the crime. With the train trapped in the snow due to an avalanche, and a bunch of clues that make no sense, he must find the killer at the earliest, and everyone on the train is a suspect. How he manages to solve the case is what the film is about.

What’s Good?
The best aspect of the film is its re-imagining of the character of Hercule Poirot. In the books and previous film/tv avatars, Poirot is a short and stout balding man who does not get his hands dirty and solves his cases by listening to them perched on his armchair mostly. However, this film’s version of Poirot is a very hands on detective, one who is not afraid to get his hands dirty.
The first act seems to have a lot of energy and manages to keep the viewer engrossed in the proceedings. Special mention must be made regarding the cinematography and art direction of the film. The scenic landscapes, through which the orient express travels, and the interiors of the train, are beautifully and stylishly shot. The art direction of the orient express is immaculate and makes one feel like traveling on it to explore the world.

What’s Not?
Once the titular murder is committed, the film slows down drastically and loses all the verve of its first act.The backstory to the murder is hastily explained in a mixture of dialogue and flashbacks and this does not leave the desired impact on the viewer. The mystery surrounding the murder and the subsequent plot twists have been substantially dumbed down for the film. Instead of spending time on the clues and the red herrings, the film treats them as an after thought, thereby robbing the story of any mystery. This leads to a climax that is underwhelming and completely devoid of any impact.

Performances
Kenneth Branagh does a decent job in re-imagining the character of Hercule Poirot by bringing more agility and vigor to the role. He is in almost every frame of the film and manages to carry the film on his shoulders despite its shortcomings. The rest of the ensemble cast include named talent like Dame Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe and Michelle Pfieffer among others. They give decent performances, but do not have much scope to perform as after their introduction, they are relegated to the background and have just a couple of scenes each in the film.

Final Word
A marked departure from the book from which it is adapted, this film is high on style and slightly low on mystery. A strictly one time watch for genre fans only.


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