In reviewing Murder on the Orient Express, the same question comes back to mind – why? Why remake this movie when there is A.) a perfectly
good great version from 1974 starring Albert Finney and directed by Sidney Lumet (Netflix rental | Amazon rental) and B.) absolutely no demand for it other than to create some alternative viewing content that doesn’t feature superheroes or jump scares.
And then this is followed quickly by C.) if you’re going to remake it and cast a talented pool of actors, why is the majority of the movie going to focus on Kenneth Branagh as he finesses his over-the-top mustache and French accent from scene to scene while conducting an internal examination of how his character comes to terms with the resolution.
Let’s start with the good. The cinematography is gorgeous and the acting for the most part is good. That’s where the strengths of this movie end for me.
From the get-go Orient Express struggles to get moving, much like the lumbering locomotive that the murder mystery takes place on. In addition to virtually every character that comes across Branagh’s famed detective Hercules Poirot praising him for his genius-level deductive skills, we get an entire opening sequence for Branagh to showcase those very skills.
Pacing is also a big issue with this movie. As the film lumbers along, we finally get to the whodunit moment… only for even THAT to be severely anti-climactic. What should be the clarifying moment of nirvana for the audience is further muddled by an overly-complicated explanation of each passenger’s motive for murder. (The book and 1974 version ends the same way the 2017 one does, motive wise anyway)
Here’s the big difference with this remake from all the other movie and book versions of this story: “You can’t just say, ‘Here are the facts.’ Not in 2017,” Branagh said in an interview Inverse. “You’ve got to work out what you feel about it; what are you going to do about it?”
But here’s the thing. That’s EXACTLY what you can do. Lay out the facts, let the audience try to figure it out, throw in a few twists and McGuffins and work your way to the ending (either the same one from the book/movie or a different variation of it). Chances are today’s audience outside of those who had to read it for English class are going to know about this book. Those who have read it are already going to know what to expect so just hit those beats and arrive at whatever ending you decide to concoct.
This series of cast interviews is probably going to be more entertaining than the actual movie:
And again, it comes back to the questions of why. What compelling reason should the audience have to sit through another 2 hour re-hashing of a story whose ending is exactly the same as what has been done in previous movie versions?
Do yourself a favor and swap this movie for the 1974 version. That version stars Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave, and Anthony Perkins among the more recognizable names and earned Finney an Academy Award nomination and Ingrid Bergman a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
This 2017 remake stars Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Kenneth Branagh, and Kenneth Branagh’s mustache.