Murder on the Orient Express – Movie Review – Not quite full steam ahead.

I have been anticipating this new adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s most famous stories for quite some time. The teaser trailer did an excellent job setting up the premise, and creating enough intrigue to make me want to see the film to uncover this mystery. The large ensemble cast is what initially drew my attention, when the film was first announced.

This film tells the story of thirteen strangers who end up stranded on the Orient Express train, whilst being in the company of a murderer. Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) then takes it upon himself to use his skills to identify the murderer before they strike again.

This film boasts a massive ensemble of great actors, at the forefront of the cast is Kenneth Branagh’s Detective Hercule. Kenneth brings this iconic detective to life with charisma and comedic wit. The script packs more humour then you’d probably expect, which allows for the film to avoid being bogged down by being too serious. When the script calls for a more dramatic side to Kenneth’s performance he absolutely delivers, and manages to do so in a way that is still plausible within the confines of his character. Unfortunately with a cast this large, the script is likely to struggle with balancing all the characters and this script certainly does. Some actors were given specific moments to shine, whereas others didn’t have much material to work with. Johnny Deep’s performance as Rachett is great, it’s one of the performances that stood out to me and he made the most of his limited screen time. Two other standouts for me were Daisy Ridley’s Mary Debenham and Josh Gad’s Hector MacQueen. Both actors elevated their dialogue to make the scenes involving their characters in deep discussion, some of the most interesting scenes in the whole film. Rounding out the rest of the cast is Michelle Pfeiffer, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench and Leslie Odom Jr. All of the actors very organically fit within the story and nobody felt out of place. It was a pleasure watching all these great actors perform, it was just a shame some of them didn’t get enough time to leave a bigger impression.

Kenneth Branagh performed both in front of the camera and behind it, he made some really inspired choices as a director that made this film feel very stylish and fresh. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos’ collaborative relationship with Kenneth is visible in almost every single frame. The direction and cinematography both form one of the films best assets. There’s some excellent unconventional shot selections and camera movements. There’s a couple great long take shots through the train that establish the train as a character too. The discovery of the dead body is shot using an overheard birds eye view of the actors looking into the room, it’s a very different choice to what I had expected but I found it rather compelling and unique.

Unfortunately the story didn’t engage me as much as I had hoped, it takes a while before the murder occurs and even when it does, the film doesn’t begin to build an adequate amount of momentum to really draw you in. The middle of the film just amounts to Hercule speaking to each individual on the train, to help him identify a suspect. Some of those discussions are interesting and others aren’t, that inconsistency ruins the flow and pace of the second act, thus also ruining the flow of engagement. The choice was also made to have some scenes take place outside of the train during the second act, when Hercule’s investigation is taking place. I think it would’ve benefited the story greatly if it was all kept on train, it would’ve heightened the feeling of claustrophobia and suspense. That leads me to another issue I have, the film lacked suspense throughout. I didn’t feel the urgency of all these people being stuck on a train, with a murderer who could potentially kill again at any given moment.

The film utilises the flashback technique a number of times to show a visual representation of the murder scenario, as we begin to piece the events together. I felt these flashbacks were sometimes oddly placed, and they weren’t shot and executed with the same level of cinematic flair to match the rest of the films direction.

The set design, costumes and hair and makeup were suitably lavish and well done. I can see this film potentially receiving an Oscar nomination in those categories. As for the visual effects, they weren’t bad by any means but I found them to be very noticeable, especially in the exterior shots outside of the train. It was clear to see that the landscape shots were mostly, if not all CGI.

As for the films major reveal, I’ve grown to like it, the more I think about it. For me personally it was completely unpredictable and it elevated the film into something that is memorable.

Overall Murder on the Orient Express is a somewhat interesting experience, the film has a great cast which it doesn’t always take full advantage of. The direction and cinematography is excellent, and the final reveal makes the story very memorable.


(3 Stars Out of 5)-


Murder on the Orient Express – Starring Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Deep,Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Penélope Cruz and Willem Dafoe.

-Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Now showing in UK Cinemas and Opening in US Cinemas November 10th.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s