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Wednesday
Nov 15 2017

Review: Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

by Eric Blume

The good news is the bad news:  director Kenneth Branagh's new adaptation of Agatha Christie'sMurder on the Orient Expressis exactly what you think it will be.  It's a stylish,corny,enjoyable two hours filled with movie stars and that absurd moustache.  It delivers on romantic glamor and old-school moviemaking,but there's not a surprise to be had.

Out of the gate,Branagh plunges us into a prologue that's both boring and obvious.  He means to establish Hercule Poirot's philosophy and fastidious nature,which sadly serves only as clunky groundwork which you know will circle back by the finale (which it does).  He also tries to bring some levity to the piece with a few lame jokes.  At first Branagh seems to be overplaying his hand...

After this stumble,however,Branagh composes some elegant shots leading up to the boarding of the train and the reveal of his large cast of lovelies.  He doesn't miss his chance to please the audience with heaping spoonfuls of movie stars;as they slowly materialize,the film is a series of hokey pleasures.  Who doesn't want to see a long tracking shot where Michelle Pfeiffer,Penelope Cruz,Judi Dench,Willem Dafoe,and numerous other beautifully-boned stars appear all in the same room?  Branagh tracks several of these moments,and each one scores,because he's aware that the chief joy of the movie lays in seeing them all together.

Sadly none of the stars have anything particularly interesting or extended to play,except maybe Pfeiffer,who finds smart comedy in her first stretch and what small dimension she can in the last.  But cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos lights everyone with an enchanting glow,and all the actors seem to be having fun.

Once Branagh gets settled into the old-fashioned style,the film relaxes and cruises uninterestingly but pleasantly through to its Last Supper-like denouement.  There's not much to complain about with this movie,but not much to get excited about,either.  It's a C+ movie you'd happily mistake for a B if you watched it on an airplane.

Have you seen the picture yet?Thoughts?

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Reader Comments (31)

I hope it puts right what this remake got wrong,You need stars of Pfeiffer's magnitude to sell it.

November 15,2017 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

A perfectly fine remake but yeah,I agree on all counts.A perfectly nice sit but nothing new.Christie had some really interesting works that I'd prefer to see explored (Crooked House jumps to mind,and N or M could be interesting right now).The sprawling cast is the plus here and the movie gets that,so...C+ is about right.

November 15,2017 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

This film was a real chore.Maybe it was just me but I thought it was painfully mediocre and all of the 'suspects' were so under-developed,to the real detriment of the film.Olivia Colman had maybe three lines (all in German),Willem Dafoe and Judi Dench just didn't register,and everyone else was either barely seen (Penelope Cruz) or really mediocre (Daisy Ridley).

Pfeiffer had her moments but she was badly served by Branagh's patchy direction.I did think Derek Jacobi made the most out of his thankless role,but Branagh is such a shameless ham.

November 15,2017 | Unregistered CommenterBillyBob

I fell asleep during the film ...:o

November 15,2017 | Unregistered CommenterRod

Never again!!I LIKE VERY MUCH THE SONG!

November 15,2017 | Unregistered Commenterjon

The best thing about this movie is all the press interviews with the huge cast.Dame Judi and gang on Graham Norton the other night were pretty chill and funny (esp Josh Gad).Michelle looked great.

November 15,2017 | Unregistered CommenterPam

The 1974 version is a perfect confection.Its large presence at the first Oscars I ever watched as a kid transfixed and transformed me.亚博主页This remake gets so much wrong,starting with Branagh the ham slinger as both character and director.A timeless story has been defiled and embalmed.Depressing.

November 15,2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Agreed brookesboy,I had to rewatch the original and it full of little bits of dialogue such as Gielgud's throaway line about the pudding Spotted Dick or Hiller's ordering of dinner,Roberts laugh at a compliment,Bacall's finding all the clues in her make up bag.

November 15,2017 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

My mom is the die-hard Christie fan in our house,and she said she enjoyed it and that it exceeded her expectations.The guy next to her,however,fell asleep.To each their own.

November 15,2017 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia.

I'm with brookesboy - a terrible adaptation - the new spin on Poirot doesn't get the character right at all,the direction is distracting,and the script is woefully thin/obvious.The 1974 version is far superior.

Here's hoping the coming Crooked House film is much,much better.

November 15,2017 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

It was very...nice....An airplane movie is a good explanation.The clues are mostly told,not shown.And it lacked the shocked suspense of the denouement.

OTOH,I would like to see more of these,so I'll hold out that Branagh can learn from his mistakes during his apparent voyage on the Nile.

November 15,2017 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

At least it has a lovely song by La Pfeiffer!Maybe she still has a crack at Best Song?

November 15,2017 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

I also feel excited for the casting possibilities with Death on the Nile.However I wouldn't want to be on a plane or any other public mode of transportation watching a movie about a murder while travelling.

November 15,2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Totally agree!Solid B-

November 16,2017 | Unregistered CommenterCurtis Chastain

I can't believe I'm saying this but the long tracking shot of Michelle Pfeiffer on the train was so annoying.No matter how hard he tried,Kenneth Branagh couldn't hold my interest as the protagonist.Usually I'm all for all star cast but this one is a snoozefest.

November 16,2017 | Unregistered Commenterjack

Well made silly fun,that could have done with a bit more ‘fun'.
Pfeiffer nailed it (she always has such a good understanding of the tone of the films she's in)
Can see myself re watching this whenever it's on on a Sunday afternoon.Agree with the B-/C+ grade.

November 16,2017 | Unregistered CommenterJB

I thought Poirot's monologue at the end was too corny,espceically paired with that unbearable piano melody.Overall,I was hoping for more chilling suspense moments.
However,I enjoyed this movie very much due to its genre.

November 16,2017 | Unregistered CommenterVictor

Oh,look.Another unnecessarily all-white film except for a token black character.

November 16,2017 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

Are we forgetting about Marwan Kenzari,Penelope Cruz,and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo?I'm not arguing the casting still couldn't have been more diverse,but at least we're moving forward from the near lily-white 1974 version.

November 16,2017 | Unregistered CommenterTeppo2

Pfeiffer deserved better this year.

November 16,2017 | Unregistered Commentermikenewq

Let's do the math:

Albert Finney + Sidney Lumet=1974 MOTOE

Kenneth Branagh + Kenneth Branagh=whatever this is

November 16,2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Sue me but...I enjoyed it.The film doesn't know how to handle the "clues"right but instead focuses on creating a sort of melancholy that I thought was intriguing and ended up being emotionally satisfying.And let's be honest,the 1974 film goes the opposite direction,all puzzle and no emotion.

November 16,2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom M

Tom M.--I disagree.If you can't tell this story with the correct clues in the correct place--and this is a murder mystery--that's a problem.This is something the 1974 film got right.As far as emotion goes,the 1974 version has quite a bit of it.The scene between Finney and Sean Connery where Poirot loses it over the suspect's coldness toward his friend's suicide--Finney explodes with anger at the tragedy of five people losing their lives.Rachel Roberts has a really poignant moment when she sees a photo of her late friend.And the ending with the toast--very touching.There are other instances as well.Another reason why the previous version is far superior is that everyone in the cast gets at least one big moment.This latest presents the cast as virtually wax figures with no definable personalities,basically pretty wallpaper against which Branagh preens like a peacock.How embarrassing.

November 16,2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

@brookesboy

I agree with you.

November 16,2017 | Unregistered Commentergrrr

The 1974 film is a one-of-a-kind experience.Just about every star glittered and sparked.This one was like watching tv.An acceptable time killer if you can't find the remote.Just compare Wendy Hiller and Judi Dench.They are both equally great actresses,yet while the former stole the show ("My doctor advised against it"Priceless),the latter might as well have been the first one sent from Central Casting.If Branagh's "talent"is to turn Judi Dench (Judi Dench!) (and Olivia Colman and Willem Dafoe) into nameless swatches of wallpaper,I say head him off at the pass.

November 16,2017 | Unregistered Commenterken s

It's a listless,joyless mess.The stars were utterly wasted.

November 16,2017 | Unregistered CommenterPete

Where is Countess Andrenyi in that suspect list?
Jacqueline Bisset was so gorgeous as her in the original.
Anyway Michelle Pfeiffer deserves so much better in her comeback year!

November 16,2017 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

"It's a C+ movie you'd happily mistake for a B if you watched it on an airplane."

This is brilliant and sadly (as a Christie enthusiast) probably true in this case.

November 17,2017 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I dug it,but that advertising is strange...

November 20,2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

Disapponting!Branagh's attempt at an accent faded in and out.Moustach looked pasted on.His role had no presence.The strongest actor ,I thought,was Johnny Depp.Judy Dench had presence.The film was totally spoilt by the obvious placement of the false background and inadequate special effects.Standing in an area,or in a train,surrounded by snow,requires an obvious hot breath coming from the speakers mouth.Not even once did these amatures consider that.
A B-grade film that looked promising with the line up of big names.Can't recommend.

December 2,2017 | Unregistered CommenterKriss

Disapponting!Branagh's attempt at an accent faded in and out.Moustach looked pasted on.His role had no presence.The strongest actor ,I thought,was Johnny Depp.Judy Dench had presence.The film was totally spoilt by the obvious placement of the false background and inadequate special effects.Standing in an area,or in a train,surrounded by snow,requires an obvious hot breath coming from the speakers mouth.Not even once did these amatures consider that.
A B-grade film that looked promising with the line up of big names.Can't recommend.

December 2,2017 | Unregistered CommenterKriss

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