Monkeys Fighting Robots

Poor performances from the supporting cast and a terribly constructed narrative doom Murder On The Orient Express before it ever leaves the station.


Murder On The Orient Express centers around the exploits of Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh). Poirot is internationally famous, both for cracking the most desperate cases and for his keen sense of observation. He just finished breaking his toughest case yet at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall and is in dire need of a vacation. Poirot is offered a first class ticket on The Orient Express, which should allow him to get away for some time. As he boards the train, Poirot encounters an eclectic group of passengers and finds himself in the middle of a grisly murder. Will the world’s greatest detective be able to crack this case or has he finally met his match?

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What Worked

Branagh was the perfect actor to portray one of Agatha Christie’s more famous characters. Poirot’s idiosyncrasies were on full display and his internal struggle with OCD with at times uncomfortable to watch. Instead of blowing every little quirk out of proportion, he chooses to highlight these in a very different way. One thing that stood out was his need to have two perfectly cooked eggs in the morning (and by perfect I mean he measures them with a ruler to see that each are proportionate to one another).

Haris Zambarloukos once again showed how profoundly skilled he was behind the camera. His cinematography was able to heighten the proximity of these cabins and heighten the film’s more tense moments. Loved how tight the show was when Poirot was interrogating Hector Macqueen (Josh Gad). The audience could see the beads of sweat forming on his forehead. Zambarloukos uses his cinematography to bring the audience into the story.

What Didn’t Work

Screenwriter Micheal Green repeated some of the same mistakes we saw in Alien: Covenant and Green Lantern. Instead of focusing on the campiness found in most Agatha Christie novels or the action in his previous two films, his narrative is bogged down with too much exposition. Audiences don’t need to know what brought Poirot to this moment in his life, let’s get right to the mystery. No one cares about the nobility of the Lantern Corps; we want to see them battle some galactic bad guys. Had Green focused on beefing up the action in this narrative and stayed from the mindless exposition, then this release could have been so much better. Instead, the story drags on lulling the theater into an uncomfortable haze.

Why was Daisy Ridley cast in this film? Was it due to her name value? Ridley portrays Mary Debenham which happens to be one of the more interesting characters in the story. The actress needs to someone with a broader range of ability which she doesn’t have. Her portrayal was lifeless, flat, and her romance with Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr) was less than believable.

Judi Dench’s accent was far from accurate and became a distraction. Was she Russian? Was she from Eastern Europe?


Murder On The Orient Express is the perfect example of how critical screenwriting is. It doesn’t matter who is in a film. If the narrative isn’t focused or bogged down with too much exposition, the release is doomed. While Branagh was a perfect choice to play the eccentric detective, this film collapses under the weight of a poorly conceived adaptation.

Production Design
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.
murder-on-the-orient-express-review-a-whodunit-which-derailsWhile the Cinematography and Branagh's performance are certainly noteworthy, 'Murder On The Orient Express is held back by such terrible writing and poor performances by the rest of the cast.