Murder On The Orient Express Lacks Steam But Has Style To Spare
Considered the most successful adaptation of an Agatha Christie story ever made, Sidney Lumet’s 1974 version of Murder of the Orient Express was a smash hit with audiences and critics, snagging a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for ensemble cast member, Ingrid Bergman. Lumet’s lineup was packed with boldface names like Bergman, Sean Connery, Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Anthony Perkins, and Vanessa Redgrave, seemingly designed to draw big crowds.
Hoping for a repeat success with his 2017 remake, director (and star) Kenneth Branagh, has brought together a similarly impressive cast of A-listers (Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley), should-be A-listers (Derek Jacobi and the always excellent Olivia Colman), and former A-listers (Johnny Depp). But despite the killer lineup, this latest take on the murderous tale fails to impress in the same way its predecessor does.
Christie fans will know the setup well: thirteen strangers trapped on a luxury train as it careens across snow-covered mountains from Istanbul to London, one of them is a murderer, all of them are suspects. When the train is delayed by snow-blocked tracks, Detective Hercule Poirot (conveniently or inconveniently one of the passengers, depending on your point of view) has to solve the case to prevent the killer from committing murder number two.
With a plot as elaborate as Poirot’s moustache, in Branagh’s hands, Orient Express comes across as cluttered and clunky. It’s a slow-moving milk run that makes unnecessary stops in uninteresting places. What it lacks in suspense, though, it makes up for in style and performance.
It’s fun to see Dafoe juggle different accents while watching Pfeiffer burn up the screen with her character’s perfectly over-the-top outfits and demeanour. Dench executes her turn from cranky to stoic seamlessly in seconds and Ridley is well-suited to play the chirpy young governess with (like everyone) something to hide. As for the Orient Express itself, you’ll find yourself wishing you were on it, murderer be damned.
Murder on the Orient Express also stars Tom Bateman, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Marwan Kenzari, Lucy Boynton, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and high-kicking Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin. The train pulls into the station on November 10. Watch the trailer below.