KYLE Says MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS Is A Mild Disappointment.

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FILM REVIEW: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

BY KYLE ARANGO

Murder on the Orient Express is directed by Kenneth Branagh and stars Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Branagh himself. It is based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name and tells the story of a bunch of strangers on a train. When a murder happens, it is up to (Probably) the greatest detective in the world, Hercule Poirot, to solve the murder and find the murderer. With an impressive cast and great source material, the film had a great shot at being amazing. Unfortunately, that is not what happened. Instead, I left feeling very sad that a movie I was anticipating so much let me down.

To begin, Murder on the Orient Express is not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination. What it is, is an underwhelming murder mystery that had every chance to be great and couldn’t succeed. Director Kenneth Branagh comes from a Shakespearian background and is a well renowned actor and director who has a very particular style and seems to incorporate Shakespeare into all his works. Problem is, that isn’t always the best option. With A movie about a murder mystery, I want to be invested and on the edge of my seat trying to solve the case and never knowing what could happen next. That didn’t happen for me in this film.

The biggest problem with Murder on the Orient Express, is something that can be a killer for movies. That problem is boredom. I’m sad to say that there were stretches of this film that made me feel very bored. It had me feeling restless and sad because I so wanted to be invested in this mystery. What would happen is Poirot would have a discussion with a potential suspect and then move on to the next. Problem is no conversation felt separate from the others. At one point I was convinced everyone was innocent which is actually a plus to the acting and the writing. It would’ve been better if after every conversation, a new revelation arose that had me feeling one way and then another would come about that had me thinking another way. It was just missing something that could keep me invested. Another problem is wasted talent. You have stars like Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, and Willem Dafoe who are given nothing to do with their characters. With weak characters, when the ending happens it does not feel earned. I was not invested in most of the cast. A final detriment would be Branagh’s accent. While engaging, it can also become distracting and hard to understand.

While there are many problems in Murder on the Orient Express, it is not without its strengths. The saving grace in this film, is its acting. There is a masterclass in acting on display here. Old Veterans like Cruz, Dench, and Dafoe are as great as they always are. New rising stars like Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, and Leslie Odom Jr. are terrific here and show they can hang with the veterans. With Gad coming from Frozen and Ridley coming from Star Wars, they show they are more than just their big franchises. However, there are two big performances of note here. The first being Kenneth Branagh. His performance and directing carry this movie. The character he portrays is likeable, quirky, and funny. He is the one character you actually like and invest in. The other worth noting is Johnny Depp. What a welcome surprise he is here. It has been a long time since Depp has been great in something and the dry spell finally ends here. The performance isn’t anything different, but he does show that he’s still got it and can do more than the crazy weird characters he usually plays. The acting is what you remember when leaving this film.

At the end of it all, Murder on the Orient Express is a film with so much potential that fails to live up to it. While there are things to appreciate in this film, and a murder mystery can be interesting, I can’t help but being disappointed by what I saw which I hate saying. Branagh does sport one of the greatest mustaches in movie history in this film so that is something to like. I wish I enjoyed it more but that is simply not the case. I can recommend this film for audiences who enjoy acting, but for those looking to be invested and tense, I say go in with tempered expectations. Maybe you’ll be surprised.

 

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