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Review: Murder on the Orient Express

Morgan Pryor, Staff writer

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It’s a rare case when the amount of A-list actors exceeds four or five in a film, so when a whole train’s worth of stars graces the silver screen, it grabs a lot of attention. With such a talented ensemble, “Murder on the Orient Express” had high expectations before its much-anticipated release. Despite the promising premise and killer personnel, “Murder on the Orient Express” fails to take advantage of the talent in its possession and delve into the complex, emotional motivations behind cold-blooded murder.

 

The film begins with an interesting introduction to Hercule Poirot (played by director Kenneth Branagh), a world-famous detective with a slew of odd quirks and a truly remarkable mustache. Straightaway, Poirot is presented with the case of a stolen relic and three religious men as suspects, which he solves with the ease and flair of Sherlock Holmes. Poirot’s obsessive perfectionism gives him the ability to figure out even the most difficult of cases. His fixation with equity is demonstrated in the opening scene, where a boy frantically tries to fulfill his request of two perfectly symmetrical eggs. Poirot’s eccentric introduction and first case are relatively promising, but the rest of the film fails to expand upon his character. The lack of development seemed to apply to nearly every major plot point and character in the film.

 

Like its award-winning 1976 predecessor, “Murder” is smart in its casting and has a slew of heavy hitters. Surely with so many renowned actors and promising newcomers, “Murder” should be a success. However, Branagh gives each actor so little screen time that they can hardly develop their characters. Despite solid performances, it appears as if Branagh was in such a rush to cram in the stories of all twelve suspects in its 114-minute time frame that he forgot to fully foster their backstories. One can hardly formulate a reasonable guess as to who committed the crime because hardly anything is known about each character.

 

The plot is sluggish; there are pointless additions — including a random lost love interest — that do nothing for the story’s progression. A series of crawling revelations lead to a confusing discovery that has to do with an old murder case. Abrupt black-and-white flashbacks attempt to explain the events of the past and how they tie to the present. However, the end result is too much information with not enough elaboration. When the third act is finally underway, it feels rushed; similar to the rest of the movie. There are last-ditch efforts to add meaning and depth to the murder case with a shocking twist and remarks about the human soul, but it is too little, too late.

 

Though a bit lethargic, “Murder” tries to make up for it with stunning visuals and costumes. With such a limited set, the film relies on the scenic views of the countryside, but one can’t help but admire the level of detail that went into the train’s quarters and the elaborate clothing characteristic of the 1930s. If anything, the level of artistry in this film makes it worth the trip to the cinema.

 

“Murder” is not entirely unentertaining; it just is another unnecessary remake of a classic film that is best left untouched. Branagh’s efforts to modernize a classic whodunit are, overall, semi-successful at best. I have to give “Murder on the Orient Express” a B- for effort, but it completely wastes its ensemble’s artistic capacity.

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