‘Murder on the Orient Express’
‘Murder on the Orient Express’
Murder on the Orient Express casts a dark and serious Johnny Depp as an American mobster murdered after the Orient Express — a train taking passengers to Paris from Istanbul — gets stuck in an avalanche. Since he’s a world-famous detective and just “happens” to be on board, Hercule Poirot gets tasked with solving the murder.
Kenneth Branagh — who also directs — stars as Poirot. He’s supported by an A-list group of stars. Along with Depp is Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Beauty and the Beast’s Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe, Lucy Boynton and others.
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The film’s focus is Poirot. The heavily mustached Branagh does a flawless French accent and has a blast with the character. He slogs in a most serious manner through Michael Green’s (Blade Runner 2049, Logan) sometimes slow screenplay while quizzing his suspect co-stars who at times seem like they can barely keep from busting a gut.
They all — brilliantly — have that caught with hands in the cookie jar expression down pat and are so good at looking guilty that it’s almost comical. Branagh’s all-business Poirot is the pivot that allows them to let their hair down a bit and have a blast with their parts.
Much of the joy of Branagh’s version of the story is his skill as a director. He’s always been a competent actor and very good in supporting roles, but Branagh has never been a stellar leading man. His real contribution to the industry has been behind the camera.
Branagh’s résumé stretches from comic books to Disney characters to the Bard. He directed Marvel’s original Thor, the acclaimed mystery Sleuth, the new version of Cinderella and several critically celebrated films based on William Shakespeare’s plays.
This is Hollywood’s third version of Agatha Christie’s classic story. In 1974 directing legend Sidney Lumet did the original with what was — at the time — an all-star cast. Albert Finney played the author’s famed detective and his co-stars were Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave and a few others.
In 2001 Alfred Molina did a credible Poirot in a TV movie with co-stars Meredith Baxter and Leslie Caron. It was a critical bomb. Part of the reason for the failure is Christie’s 1934 plot being as dated 16 years ago and it was dated 43 years ago.
Alas, it’s still dated today.
Dated, yes, but in the right hands — like Branagh’s — it is still a lot of fun. Branagh’s ability to tell a story — even one with a screenplay this stretched out — is superb. As he has done with his other projects, this film is gorgeous, the effects are stunning and the acting magnificent.
Murder on the Orient Express ends up being killer good.
Movie name: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Lucy Boynton, Leslie Odom Jr., Tom Bateman, Derek Jacobi, Sergei Polunin, Olivia Colman
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, some violence. It’s playing at the AMC Kennewick 12, Regal’s Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.