Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express has been adapted more times than most people realize. The latest film adaptation includes a star studded cast from director/actor Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Cinderella, Sleuth).
Branagh plays the larger-than-life detective Hercule Poirot, a man who has an uncanny ability to solve impossible cases – he’s also weirdly obsessed with things being balanced. While traveling on the Orient Express, Poirot finds one of the passengers has been murdered. He uses his detective skills to connect the evidence and figure out which one of the passengers is responsible for the murder.
The plot is a straight forward murder mystery on a train with Poirot at the center of the story.
Kenneth Branagh is incredible as Poirot. From the moment his crazy mustache dances onto the screen, he’s electric. His social awkwardness and the curious way he connects the dots will remind audiences of Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on PBS.
As dynamic as Branagh’s Poirot is, the amazing cast that includes Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom Jr, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley aren’t given much character development. The only character given any depth is Poirot. The one-on-one scenes with Poirot meeting with the various passengers give clues but never develop who these people are.
The supporting characters aren’t really people at all. Their function is to build the main character, raise suspicion, and help move the story along. There’s a lot of wasted talent onscreen. This isn’t a Teen Wolf situation where the movie is boring if it focuses on his teammates nobody cares about. These passengers on the train could be interesting if the film spent a little time to develop them.
Even with the story’s inability to develop any of the passengers on the train, is entertaining. It’s an old fashioned “who done it?” with witty banter. It’s a much lighter crime drama that starts off with a lot of humor and hits the ground running. Unfortunately, it loses steam towards the end when it should be ramping up for the big reveal. The fact that this is a movie takes place on the train is ironic – the story starts to slow down as it comes to an end.