Murder on the Orient Express review: A lavish romp

"Murder on the Orient Express " is a visual feast, bursting with movie stars, glamour and production value so high, you might just exit the theater experiencing some time-warp whiplash.

Published: 10th November 2017 10:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th November 2017 10:38 AM   |  A+A-

This image released by Twentieth Century Fox shows Daisy Ridley in a scene from, 'Murder on the Orient Express.' | AP

By Associated Press

Film: Murder on the Orient Express

Director:  Kenneth Branagh

Cast:  Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench

Kenneth Branagh's "Murder on the Orient Express " is a visual feast, bursting with movie stars, glamour and production value so high, you might just exit the theater experiencing some time-warp whiplash. Certainly no studio would make a straightforward, classical whodunit with a budget the size of a modest superhero pic (and no superheroes to speak of) nowadays, you think. What year is this anyway?

But against all odds and logic, here we have, in the waning days of 2017, a perfectly decent adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1934 novel with the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench and Branagh himself lighting up the big screen and chewing the decadent scenery like old-fashioned stars.

Branagh plays the lead, Hercule Poirot, a dandy Belgian detective with a gloriously over-the-top mustache who can only see the world as it should be. Imperfections, he says, stand out, whether it's two soft-boiled eggs that are of different sizes or, you know, the kind of incongruities that make it immediately obvious to him who has committed a crime. This is all laid out quite neatly in a lively opening sequence at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem where he theatrically solves a theft in front of a crowd of locals on the verge of rioting.

Chance brings him aboard the Orient Express, which should really have its own credit in the film, where he meets an odd group of strangers — a sultry widow (Pfeiffer), a secretive governess (Daisy Ridley), the doctor whom she pretends to not know (Leslie Odom Jr.), a gangster-like art dealer (Depp), his valet (Derek Jacobi) and his bookkeeper (Josh Gad), a princess (Dench) and her maid (Olivia Coleman), a religious zealot (Cruz), a volatile dancer (Sergei Polunin) and his sick wife (Lucy Boynton), a German professor (Willem Dafoe) and a count (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo). And then one of them dies — there's at least a chance someone reading doesn't yet know who — and everyone remaining becomes a suspect.

Got all that?

Don't worry. It's more than a little overwhelming to keep track of who's who in this bunch and quite a few get the short shrift. But it's still fun enough to see Depp hamming it up with a thick New York accent, Pfeiffer vamping around the train's hallways and Branagh careening between giddy parody and self-seriousness as a man who delights in a well-constructed pastry and a good turn-of-phrase from Charles Dickens but can't seem to comprehend moral ambiguity in the slightest.

Unfortunately, the movie loses its steam right when the intrigue is supposed to be taking over. The discovery process isn't nearly as fun or engaging as it should be, and despite the energetic start, the film becomes a bit of a slog waiting for the big answer (for those who already know it, either from the source material, Sidney Lumet's 1974 film or any of the other adaptations, this might be even more tedious).

Branagh certainly steals scenes as Poirot, but the director might have taken some more time to ensure that all of his characters were given as loving a treatment as his own, or the setting, which is truly quite splendid to behold and even makes up for some of the deficiencies of the storytelling.

As odd as it might sound, it is somewhat refreshing to sit in a theater and watch a grand scale production that's not set in space or predetermined by the pages in a comic book. Then it goes and mucks it all up by leaving the door conspicuously open for a sequel.

"Murder on the Orient Express," a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "for violence and thematic elements." Running time: 114 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

Stay up to date on all the latest Entertainment Review news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

facebook twitter whatsapp