MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS Review

By Victoria Alexander, Film Critic

Las Vegas Informer

What’s next? Bringing back Charlie Chan? MURDER lacks ugliness, spite and callousness. Branagh talks too much.

I cannot compare THE MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS with the original 1974 film of Agatha Christie’s famous book.

Do we really need a Hercule Poirot franchise starring Kenneth Branagh? I thought after directing and co-starring in JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT (2014) would have discouraged another director/star vehicle for Branagh. But with this, Branagh’s last image in MURDER is Poirot leaving for Egypt because there has been…a death on the Nile.

After seeing the crummy accommodations on Branagh’s Orient Express, I consider its fame exaggerated. And the fact that the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot (Branagh), is enlisted to solve a murder on its luxury train, he is not even given his own sleeping car! He’s given the upper bunk on someone else’s third class car.

That famous mustache. First, it is so over-the-top that it captures your attention in every scene Branagh is in – and he’s in a lot of scenes. I’ve spent ten days in Belgium. His droning-on Belgian accent is just annoying noise. The mustache is so over-preened that I kept thinking, ‘How long does Poirot take waxing, styling and trimming that pronounced thing on his face? Is it supposed to obscure a hideous nose?’

Could he stop a bullet with that mustache?

The candidates for the murder are Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr.), Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz), Gerhard Hardman (Willem Dafoe), Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), Miss Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley), Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench), Dragomiroff’s maid, Hildegarde Schmidt (Olivia Colman), Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) and Ratchett’s assistant, Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad).

Poirot is given MacQueen’s cabin.

No one paying to see this movie remembers the original cast so these actors and actresses are not challenged by the famous names that originally created the characters.

Ratchett was murdered by someone on the train and Poirot goes about interviewing each passenger. One of them is the murderer.

Shot on 65mm film by cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos, nothing suggests the need for such an expensive film stock. If it made anything better visually, I missed it. Branagh used 70mm for his 1996 film HAMLET, starring himself as the Prince of Denmark.

Depp is the most interesting character on the train. All the others have straw parts they can do little with. The exception is Michelle Pfeiffer, who has returned to films after a five-year hiatus. She is in every movie! And Hollywood has gifted her with what is now the ultimate prize, conceivably outranking an Oscar – a possible franchise! It’s like tenure. It’s ten years guaranteed high income. Pfeifffer did play Catwoman in 1992’s BATMAN RETURNS, but she never reprised the role of Selina Kyle. Pfeiffer will play The Wasp in Marvel’s ANT-MAN AND THE WASP.

As Caroline Hubbard, it seems Pfeiffer did not take direction from Branagh. Her performance is boarder and looks as if she fashioned the character’s presentation herself. It stands out not because it is good, but because it is not in harmony with the rest of the cast. As “they” keep saying, “More is Less.”

With Branagh’s demented Belgian accent archly swimming around his “too many words” dialogue and that ghastly mustache upstaging everyone, the fun of the mystery is dulled. What MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS needed was a little ugliness, spite and callousness.

Uncovering the guilty party to the murder – cunning as it is – does not cinematically achieve “thriller” status.

Victoria Alexander

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com.

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