Who done it? I’ll never tell. But here’s the thing, I’m not really sure it’s worth finding out. If you’ve read Agatha Christie’s novel, published way before our time in 1934, you know the outcome. Then there are the majority of us who haven’t read the source material – you’re my main focus. Do not waste your time. What went wrong? Well it was a perfect storm – the directing, screenplay, and most shocking of all, the acting.
While Kenneth Branagh (Valkyrie) no doubt is multi-faceted and talented, his directing style has become predictable and forced. There’s a fine line between being ambitious and overly ambitious, Branagh falls into the latter. Directing and acting in your own film works for many, but not in his case. Staring in this as the most complex character distracted him from what should’ve been his main priority, directing. It showed Sir Branagh. He resorted to the obvious techniques used in every other crime, mystery film to create an ominous, mysterious feeling. First and foremost, the lighting with dark hues that glowed with CGI effects made the shots look fake. Next, he panned the camera in several shots slowly from the front of the train to the end with an actor in each window looking scared and concerned. Cheesy much? Let’s not forget the melodramatic music. Less is more…
I can’t speak to Agatha Christie’s classic crime novel, but I can say for sure, he butchered it. Murder mysteries are supposed to be suspenseful with twists and turns around every corner, providing clues that keep you guessing. Don’t hold your breathe, you’ll be waiting a long time if that is what you’re looking for. ‘Twas predictable, not thrilling, and highly anticlimactic. It’s the worst to sit through a film for two hours, only to walk out feeling no sense of closure after the big reveal. Needless to say, this is NOT for adrenaline junkies.
The biggest disappointment of all was the star-studded cast including, but not limited to Branagh, Penélope Cruz (Vanilla Sky), Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man), Judi Dench (Skyfall), Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean), Michelle Pfeiffer (Scarface), and Josh Gad (Frozen). This film proved that ensemble casts aren’t always the greatest idea. Each one tried to out act the other, resulting in unconvincing, over exaggerated, unimpressive performances – not a good look. The previews say it all with their Zoolander-esk, seductive gone wrong faces look at you through the windows as described above, but hey ya can’t win ‘em all!
Bottom line: There’s nothing better than a good crime mystery that’s gets your heart rate pumping and your stomach churning. Sadly, you will find no such sensations during Murder on the Orient Express. It’s a quick ride with no climax – you do the math.