November 10, 2017

R: November 10th, 2017 | R: 128 minutes | R: PG-13

When my editor assigned me to see this film, all I could think of was Steve Carell as Michael Scott saying, "There's been a murdah... in Savannah," and I laughed for three days.

I've never read the novel by the same name penned by Agatha Christie, so if we're being honest, I thought this was another Polar Express movie.
I am an idiot.

Murder on the Orient Express is a whodunit that takes place in 1930s Europe on a train that has been derailed due to an avalanche. With the suspect likely still aboard, passenger and world famous Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) -- who is supposed to be taking a break from cracking cases -- is thrust back into his role mostly against his will.

Among the other passengers are a criminal by the name of Rachette (Depp) and his associate, MacQueen (Josh Gad). Ms. Caroline Hubbard (Pfeiffer) -- a woman on a husband hunt -- and a woman who is already married -- to Jesus -- Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz).
A bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked Governess by the name of Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley) freely expresses her disdain at the narrow mindedness of other riders over diversity and the mixing of "white" and "red" wine. Meanwhile, a real life princess (Judi Dench) holds court nearby with her pups and her loyal handler, Hildegarde Schmidt (Olivia Colman).

When the body count on the luxurious locomotive goes from zero to one over night, Poirot calls for the assistance of Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr.) to deduce time of death and other details that might lead to the capture of the killer.

Yes, this is a star-studded mystery and feels very much like a game of Clue. While I enjoyed trying to place the assassin's identity before it was revealed, I found myself swept up in the romantics of it all. Murder on the Orient Express is very much a love story of a different size and shape than we're used to.

Kenneth Branagh as Poirot is bright, witty, and engaging -- and always leaving the viewer wanting more. Branagh has no trouble sitting behind the camera in the Director's chair and holding his place firmly on screen. Having a heavy-hitting cast -- and seeing these players in roles we're not accustomed to -- adds something truly unique and enjoyable.

The film is an exercise in right and wrong and leaves the audience feeling wholly fulfilled. A story delivered as only celluloid can, Murder on the Orient Express showcases brilliant cinematography and just the right amount of secrecy to keep you on your toes.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Katie Katie (Contributor) is a cinephile and Chicago native who has been reviewing film for nearly a decade. Her heroes include Roger Ebert and Jay Sherman -- it stinks!
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Hercule Poirot, (played by Kenneth Branagh) is the world's greatest detective. However, when he plans to take a peaceful ride on the Orient Express with thirteen other strangers, it is everything but peaceful. Upon the first few days of the trip, a murder takes place and Hercule is forced to solve the mystery. Will the detective be able to solve the case, or will he be killed by the murderer before he can escape the train?

Actor and director Kenneth Branagh (who previously directed “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” and “Thor”) takes the lead of this film both directing and starring as Hercule Poirot. This film is based on the novel by Agatha Christie (who also wrote “And Then There Were None” and “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”) and has been adapted to a film twice, once in 1974, and also in 2001. While I was highly anticipating this film, I was left open handed. I feel like this film had so much going for it, but still did not satisfy. To start, the crime solving seemed far too easy at points. Then again, at other moments the clues left me confused as to he figured them out. I also felt that the humor in the film did not work smoothly with the overall tone. But like I was referring to earlier, the plot disappointed me. I was very loosely engaged, and had very little attachment to the star studded cast, I believe that this is all a result to a poorly written out screenplay.

Speaking of the all star cast, their performances were great, the stand outs were Daisy Ridley (previously seen in “Scrawl” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) as Miss Mary Debenham, Johnny Depp (previously seen in “Edward Scissorhands” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl”) and Josh Gad (previously seen “Marshall” and “Frozen”). They gave great performances throughout the entirety of the film. My favorite element of the film was the cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos (who has worked closely with Branagh on films like “Thor” and “Cinderella”). The shots were absolutely beautiful and the color grading was gorgeous.

To conclude this review, I enjoyed moments of this film. But the cinematography and acting were not able to make up for the poorly written screenplay. Overall I was left with a dull and at points boring film. It really did not meet my expectations at all and I do not think that many should rush out to the box office to see this film, just wait till it hits streaming services.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Cabell Cabell (Contributor) is a filmmaker from Tampa, Florida. He will watch just about any film but when he's not reviewing the latest hits he spends time directing films of his own.
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Murder on the Orient Express is a murder mystery film surrounded by beautiful scenery and a star-studded cast. This film is directed by Kenneth Branagh who also stars as the greatest detective alive, Hercule Poirot. Branagh is fantastic in this film, he is easily the standout with his character’s drive to solve a very dark murder mystery, while also being humorous and cocky about his skills. This cast also includes Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad and Willem Dafoe. Yes, the cast alone is worth the price of admission.

The story of people being locked in a box with an unknown murderer among them is very intriguing, but I will say the overall journey of the investigation is rather difficult. This is because although the many interrogations are great, we learn no one on the Orient Express is clean. Meaning not only are they all suspects from being passengers on the train, but they are all telling lies in some way. Branagh’s character seems to unfold these lies almost immediately without any research at all, attempting to justify his unimaginable expertise but instead just leaves the audience asking, “how could he know that?”

The reveal of the film is also rather underwhelming in my eyes, because it is thrust upon the audience quickly with little set up from the detective. However, this is immediately followed by an intense and well-acted scene that brought me right back into the film. Overall, Murder on the Orient Express is a very enjoyable film. Each cast member keeps you invested throughout the story. Although some of the AHA! moments of the mystery are left out, it is in no way a bad film.

My score of this film may seem higher than this review leaves you to expect, but I had high expectations from this cast going in. Instead I rate films as they are, not as they should have been, and Murder on the Orient Express is a good movie at the end of the day. Go see for yourself!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Logan Logan (Contributor) is a Texas native and a massive fan of all genres of film. You can find him talking about movies on YouTube as half of the CraZCouple or in line for the latest Star Wars/Comic Book film.
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Something I admire about MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS is its willingness to divulge information. It is possible to find out for yourself who the culprit is without resorting to the source material. In many murder mysteries, a lot of information is intentionally withheld to make it nearly impossible for the audience to piece everything together before the ending. While giving the audience more critical info might dampen the revelation when the film presents it, it makes the viewer feel all the more immersed for putting the pieces together before the film has to give you the answer. This leads to a noble attempt at providing insight into what justice really is; unfortunately, it fails to bring any emotional pull to drive that home in the finale.

Many shots of CGI are both poor looking and out of place, which takes away from the beautiful scenery being shown, especially the fantastic set design. Director Kenneth Branagh also fails to strongly deliver on his responsibility of putting the stellar cast to good use, as most of the stars find themselves wasted. Overall, the film is reduced to a melting pot of actor vehicles.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Gerardo Gerardo (Contributor) is a film student living in Philadelphia. He usually prefers independent and classic films, but he will watch anything in theaters.
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